“There’s no way that these resource-dependent industries or communities are going to escape this,” said Ken Peacock, chief economist for the Business Council of B.C.
On northern Vancouver Island, Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom said forestry workers were just back to work after the strike and not yet spending freely in the town’s stores and restaurants.
“People had a lot of catching up to do before you would actually see some true dollars from community members, not tourism, flow into some of the shops again,” Wickstrom said. “Then all of a sudden, bam, there’s COVID and everything changed again.”
Thursday, she said the fact provinces have begun unveiling plans to open up economic activity doesn’t necessarily brighten the picture for her community’s shuttered businesses.
“I’m hearing that people are, businesses are wondering, just because restrictions are being lifted, will people actually go out?” she said. “You know, we’ve been trained to stay in this social-distancing, self-isolation mode.”
The fact the logging and milling operations are deemed essential under COVID-19 rules has been a saving grace, Wickstrom said.
But the forest and mining companies still operating — after adapting to social-distancing rules — already faced challenges from a slowing global economy, said Peacock. “Employment was already falling prior to the pandemic being declared and prior to us closing down our consumer-facing businesses, right across the province.”