Economic Triage to Planned Recovery – The Guardian


Myocardial infarction is a condition that requires urgent attention. The longer the situation is neglected, outcomes deteriorate. Our economy is currently suffering a severe cardiac arrhythmia. The situation needs the style of immediate intervention one would expect from our military disciplined ER physicians.

We are in the early stages of a biologic fear-based health crisis. The only known remedy has catapulted us into an unprecedented economic catastrophe. The leadership demonstrated by our health professionals is unparalleled in economic stewardship.

Government and leading bureaucrats, none of whom have been selected to manage a crisis of these proportions, are reacting as best they can to the consequence of abruptly suspending commerce.

Programs are conceived, amended, refined and expanded reactively. A full thirty-days into our crisis we desperately need a coherent approach to gradually exit our state imposed shut-down; an imposition that may extend a full thirty-months.

Faced with the deepest recession since the post-war period, and an unemployment rate eclipsing the depression creative economic leadership and confidence inspiring planning is essential.

A month ago, PEI was enjoying unprecedentedly low unemployment rates as our economy led the country. A month later, PEI recorded the third largest month-over-month decline in working hours. Our unemployment rate is now arguably triple what it was thirty days ago, at over twenty per cent; with some economists threatening up to 85 per cent unemployment in some areas of the country.

Our industries stare into the abyss of quarterly forecasts. With less than a month from spring planting season, and the Islands primary potato buyer declining to commit to purchases; a month from setting day, amidst questionably softening lobster export markets. Little more than a month from the formal start of our critical tourism season; and virtually every service and good retailing business in the economy with lights darkened.

However, our supply lines remain open and our distribution networks continue to serve our dormant Island.

Under-appreciated and underpinning our recovery are deemed essential services. Those on the frontline. Under-equipped, over-pressured and uncelebrated: our healthcare personnel, truckdrivers/ transporters, shelve stockers and product pickers, cashiers and customer service attendants, journalists, and public servants’ risk daily health compromise to maintain a semblance of accessibility and capital interchange.

I support the recommended and successful precautions advocated by our Chief Public Health Officer. These have proven to protect my children, my parents, my staff, and our provinces most vulnerable and insecure citizens – who’s challenges are immeasurably compounded through this crisis.

Absent an exit strategy, we now need a new chorus of voices to emerge. We need our economic titans, and there are many. We need our innovators and our disruptors. We need our emerging leaders, social advocates, and voices of conscience. We need our “A-team” to step-up, huddle and deploy a managed plan. Respect our socially limiting constraints…and adapt.

We will emerge from this, so let’s define what that will look like, but most importantly – let’s get started.

We can respect the national guidelines on recovery, while also recognizing our Island containment and effective measures for community transmission control. If we fortify social restrictions and utilize testing protocols, I propose a May initiation Milestone.

The May Milestone would include a four-step process to return commerce over a thirty-month period.

  • Identification of viral vectors and infected but immunized citizens, tighten provincial boarders, afford controls, protections and remediations as a priority to front-line essential service providers;
  • Initiate low-touch economic recovery; enhance and support resumption of social spacing services, restaurants, and retail. Encourage stay-cation engagement and open industry to a modest capacity. Engagement and resumption is crucial;
  • Establish a ‘buy-local’ portal to consolidate and enhance local economic engagements. Aid local companies to conduce e-commerce and local delivery;
  • Have a rolling resumption including staggering shifts, and 1-3 day per week rolling operations; starting at 10% capacity increasing to 25% and 50%.

Finally, revaluate in September when indoor containment will be catalyst for increased incidence of viral recurrence.

We can lead our way out of this carnage or wait to follow others. Depending on the depth and duration of this imposed-suspension we can expect a 30% – 70% businesses mortality. These odds can be drastically improved with targeted supports, socially motivated enterprise innovation and access to tools still untapped by many Island businesses. And, we need capital stimulation. Foreign investment assertively sought. But paramount is a plan and confidence to return to commerce even at a bradycardia rate.

There are no viable alternatives to stimulating beyond this crisis, either using economic levers or public financing. Inaction will result in declining tax base revenue, rapid inflation, and dramatic public sector cuts. Taking action to reassure the economy will minimize the impacts of all unwelcome consequences. I should note these opinions are intended to stimulate discussion, from the highest positions of government to our sidewalks, in support of our collective approaches.