Retailers in Sidney and elsewhere on the Saanich Peninsula have been drastically affected by reduced operating hours or capacity in the face of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Sidney mayor says economic impacts of COVID will reach into 2021, if not beyond

Cliff McNeil-Smith issued the warning during a presentation to Central Saanich council

A mobile phone app designed to educate consumers and support retailers and restaurants in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the first ideas to emerge from the Rising Economy Taskforce.

Task force member and Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith described the app during a presentation updating Central Saanich council about the group’s priorities and activities. The South Island Prosperity Partnership established the task force in mid-April to address the impact on Saanich Peninsula municipalities of the pandemic.

Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith warns of long-term economic pain from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Town of Sidney/Submitted)

The app, in test mode now, aims to “help build confidence among the public” as they return to retailers and restaurants that have significant new safety measures in place.

Calen McNeil, who co-chairs the retail, services and restaurants committee on the task force, said the app updates users about what local businesses are doing with respect to COVID practices.

“It’s a really good way to communicate and it also supports local businesses operating in the region,” she told the News Review earlier this month. “If nothing else, this app shows the government is thinking more entrepreneurially, and I think that’s pretty encouraging.”

The news from McNeil-Smith wasn’t all good, as he warned of long-term economic pain from COVID-19, which has created the “sharpest economic downturn” in the region in at least a generation. “As we know, the economic impacts are going to continue well into 2021, if not beyond.”

RELATED: Finance Minister Carole James ‘optimistic’ about B.C.’s economic recovery

He described the four priorities of the task force: To create recovery priorities for the region that are most inclusive and maximize positive economic impacts; identify regional opportunities that are aligned with municipal, provincial and federal stimulus policies and funding; help coordinate the recovery by identifying common interests; and give confidence by demonstrating that recovery efforts are coordinated.

RELATED: B.C. Liberals criticize Horgan’s economic recovery plan for excluding tourism sector representation

Following an analysis of the current circumstances, stakeholders working across 11 sector-specific committees have been working on projects with a short, medium and long-term perspective, McNeil-Smith said.

“The projects that come coming forward should be deliverable within 18 months.”

Each of the 11 sector committees will submit recommendations at the task force’s August meeting. The public can expect a final recovery plan in mid-November as part of a larger, week-long public campaign and forum.

As for the phone app, McNeil-Smith said once testing is completed, implementation will come as soon as it is practicable.


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