Piece co-signed by Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Chamber, and by a business collective, and published in Le Devoir, Le Soleil, La Tribune, Le Quotidien, La Voix de l’Est et Le Droit. List of signatories follows.
The world is facing a health crisis on a scale we have never seen before. This collective ordeal is resulting in many human tragedies. All Quebecers affected directly or indirectly by COVID-19 are in our thoughts.
This situation presents many new challenges, starting with the tremendous pressure on our health care system and medical and support staff. These everyday heroes are sparing no effort in caring for those who are suffering from the virus and fighting its spread. Our entire society is grateful to them.
The COVID-19 crisis is also an unprecedented economic crisis. In less than one month, hundreds of thousands of Quebecers have lost their jobs. Tens of thousands of entrepreneurs are seeing the result of years of hard work wiped out. Flagship companies of our economy, ambassadors for Quebec at home and abroad, are wondering whether they will survive.
Our organizations are working tirelessly to help them weather the storm and keep their heads above water. This is a time for solidarity. Our first priority is everyone’s health and well-being. Our collective efforts will make a difference, and we all have a role to play.
That is what truck drivers and delivery people, working teachers, agri-food producers, health products and services suppliers, maintenance and security personnel, food services, workers in grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies, telecommunication, energy and transportation service providers, along with all the others, are doing.
Elsewhere in the world, similar measures as those we have taken to slow the spread of the virus have been implemented, and some have been successful. But we must keep a cool head and show resilience, because even in countries that acted quickly, economic activity was suspended for at least two months.
We have to adapt quickly and find new ways of working to help our economy recover as soon as possible. Governments and elected officials have a crucial role to play and a responsibility to help businesses that are doing their best to adapt to the new measures. They can make a difference.
The past few weeks have demonstrated our capacity for innovation. In addition to the invaluable contribution of workers still on the job, businesses have undergone an expedited digital transformation. Grocery stores and restaurants have modified their physical facilities and adapted how clients move through them to protect the health of their employees and their clients. In barely a few days, some companies have even designed, tested and started to produce new products to meet the urgent need for medical supplies. Their stories, which have appeared in the media, have inspired us and will continue to do so for a long time to come.
Even though it won’t be easy, we encourage all Quebec companies that can to follow suit and implement solutions that will enable them to resume their activities as soon as possible, while respecting the highest standards of hygiene.
We have to rethink how we organize work and reconfigure environments to respond to the current challenges and reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Companies, unions and public authorities have to work closely together to agree on a prevention and occupational health and safety framework to enable a gradual recovery in a context where cases of COVID-19 contamination could continue to be detected.
Extending the halt on the activities of businesses until May is tragic for many of them. We hope that this additional period will be a chance to implement working methods that will reassure employees and clients, both for businesses operating as part of essential services and for those that will resume their activities as soon as possible. This new delay requires aggressive government aid. We need to save as many businesses as possible to hope for a strong recovery.
The situation is still new. The governments of Quebec and Canada are active on all fronts and are doing incredible work. Despite serious economic repercussions, they are making difficult, but necessary, decisions. The restrictions and measures put in place today will limit the damage and ensure the recovery when the time comes.
The government and employer associations would like to quickly reach an agreement on a gradual recovery plan that would mobilize priority sectors first. By working together during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can weather the crisis and ensure the swift, effective recovery of our economy.
Yves-Thomas Dorval, President and CEO, Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ)
Michel Leblanc, President and CEO, Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM)
Charles Milliard, President and CEO, Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ)
Véronique Proulx, President and CEO, Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec (MEQ)
François Vincent, Vice-President, Québec, Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB)