How the City of Saskatoon continues to support the economy during COVID-19
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are far-reaching into many aspects of our daily lives.
Our world has been upended in so many ways. We are seeing the stark economic realities very clearly with job losses and business closures in Saskatoon and around the world.
The job numbers that we are seeing, the layoffs being issued, the drops in revenue, and the decline of production—these aren’t just numbers on a graph. Each pink slip, each business owner struggling right now, each customer unable to make a purchase, these are all stories of people in our community.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been talking with many people that have these stories. Restaurant owners that have had to pivot their whole business or shutter their doors, those in retail that have had to lay off employees that they care about, and people in the trades that have had to shift their entire operation to adapt to this new reality. Some stories are heartbreaking, where we see the very real impacts this is having. Other stories are inspiring, demonstrating a high level of ingenuity and compassion being shown in our community. This isn’t something that I take lightly.
The City of Saskatoon plays a major role in the economy of our community.
We have a responsibility to move forward on the projects and programs that we are safe to move forward on. We will play a significant role in revitalizing our economy after restrictions are lifted. My goal is to have our economy come roaring back.
Here are a few highlights of what we’re doing to keep our economy going and to support our community during this time:
- Tender the $400 million 2020 capital program: The City’s 2020 capital program is approximately $400 million and staff are working to get this tendered so that projects can happen as they would every year. This may look slightly different than it has in the past. In particular, this may affect work that involves going into people’s homes and affecting the water supply. But contracts will still be awarded and construction will still occur.
- Create more jobs with expanded Infrastructure programs: The City has remained engaged with the Federal and Provincial Governments to secure Infrastructure funding that will improve our community and create jobs. We are ready to go with projects like Bus Rapid Transit, Recovery Park at the Landfill, Road and sidewalk improvements, and others. Progress is being made to get these dollars committed so we can get the ball rolling.
- Support SREDA’s Small Business Emergency Grant: The Saskatoon Region Economic Development Authority recently launched a grant program to help small businesses during this difficult time.
- Continue to issue building and development permits: While some other cities in Canada have opted to suspend their governance processes, Saskatoon is committed to continue the business and decision making of the City as much as possible. Building permits are still being issued, staff have made the switch to inspections taking place by Skype or Facetime, and zoning changes are still occurring when possible. This work has to occur differently, but civic staff are making it happen.
- Engage with businesses: I continue to have conversations with business owners and business associations in Saskatoon about the issues they are facing and exploring what sort of role the City can play. We will do what we can to ensure that Saskatoon businesses are able to access the supports available at the provincial and federal levels as well. We are currently looking at how to forecast the impacts of COVID and ensure we are as prepared for the recovery as possible.
- Work with all levels of government and other cities: I am involved almost daily in national and provincial conversations about the economy during and after COVID-19. This includes ensuring that previously promised infrastructure money can flow, learning from what role other large cities across the country are playing and what programs they have in place, and advocating to other levels of government about what could help our situation in Saskatoon. Additionally, Saskatoon is part of a national lobbying effort to the federal government to increase the Federal Gas Tax Transfer to all Canadian municipalities. Because the City cannot legally run deficits, if we are able to lessen the financial impact placed on the City, we can pass this onto taxpayers in the future.
- Work with Indigenous community: Prior to the COVID-19 response, working with the Indigenous community was identified as an area of economic opportunity for Saskatoon. In fact, it was identified as one of four key pillars for Saskatoon’s economic growth. Now, it is clear that working collaboratively in this area will be an important part of our response to the economic downturn relating to COVID-19. This work continues, and it’s great to see this advancing in our community.
Right now, were are all facing tremendous disruption and uncertainty unlike anything we have seen before.
But what we’re also seeing is unprecedented collaboration and a strong commitment from so many people and organizations to get through this in the best way possible. Even in this challenging time, we are fortunate to be in the community that we are in, where put egos and titles aside and just work together. We all have a lot to be proud of in Saskatoon.