B.C.’s local governments need to be prepared for post-pandemic economic recovery

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“Businesses are overwhelmed and they don’t want to ask for help,” said Reid. “If we had just opened the hotline and waited for businesses to call us, we wouldn’t have helped as many people.”

Reid was part of a workshop at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention on Wednesday that brought together large and small municipalities to discuss what has worked to promote economic recovery in their communities. Experience has shown that most weren’t well-prepared for the aftermath.

“During our efforts in B.C., it’s become very clear that local governments, while having emergency management plans in place, many are not properly planning for economic recovery following disaster,” said Dale Wheeldon, president and CEO of the B.C. Economic Development Association.

The association reviewed a number of emergency management plans, and 90 per cent didn’t adequately address the needs for businesses and economic recovery during and after a disaster. Wheeldon said they’ve been trying to convince governments they need to be better-prepared, with plans that include risk assessments, engagement, business centres and re-entry programs, financing, capacity building, workforce planning, building reuse and redevelopment, and communications strategies.

Being aware of federal and provincial financial recovery programs is also important, but communities can’t rely solely on them, Wheeldon cautioned.

“Economic developers and local leaders should work with the community and businesses to make sure that you’re better-prepared for the next disaster,” Wheeldon said. “There is no such thing as a 500-year flood or a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, because the new normal is for disasters — sometimes they’re annual and sometimes they’re monthly. It’s clear anything can happen and will happen.”

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