Support for businesses has been a crucial step in keeping Canada’s populations afloat. The Toronto Region Board of Trade (TRBOT) has been taking steps to help businesses recover with initiatives as well as providing a single location for companies to find information related to COVID resources and policies.
In the wake of Toronto’s Stage 2, Jan De Silva, president and CEO of the TRBOT, has hope for the future of the thousands of businesses the board represents, as well as the region and nation in general. She talks about the role that TRBOT has played in the response to the pandemic: “In the early stages of this, we launched a supportbusiness.com portal that contained all the information from private and government sector programs to help businesses get through the lockdown period. We then three weeks ago launched our Reimagining Recovery framework, which is six different work tracks involving more than 400 organizations working on solutions to various elements of the crisis.”
Six work tracks elegantly take stock of and suggest ways forward by acknowledging the unique situations and struggles that different sectors are working through. The different tracks are as follows:
1. Recovery Stages—What conditions need to be met to reopen?
2. Sector Recovery Plans—How does recovery differ across different business sectors?
3. Retrofitting Urban Region—How will the pandemic shift the way we build and use space?
4. Cities and Corridor Blueprint—How can the economy be rebooted?
5. Business Recovery Programs—How can companies prepare for the new normal?
6. Getting Back to Trade—What are new emerging international markets?
Most of the pains of businesses in the contemporary crisis are accounted for here, and they gesture toward a unity of thought among business and governmental leaders. “I know our businesses are saying it would be so much easier if everything was harmonized,” says De Silva, who expresses a common frustration with the seemingly contradictory rates and standards of reopening. “We came out strongly in support of something called Post Promise … It’s an online platform where businesses can go and get all the guidelines they need to know about how they can safely reopen their business based on whatever sector they’re in.”
De Silva hopes that eventually businesses will be able to sign up to a centralized standard that will restore consumer confidence in regulations and consistent safety initiatives from partner companies. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation,” she adds.
De Silva hopes that the urgency of COVID will help businesses move to integrating technologies and practices they may have dragged their feet with before. Environmental initiatives are key, alongside the utilization of advanced technologies like responsive power grids. TRBOT’s “recovery activation program” is, along with assistance from the federal government, helping small and medium-sized businesses make some of these changes.
While government assistance has been essential, De Silva admits that creative thinking within the new constraints has to rise to meet the occasion.
“In the early days, we were, like many of our members, thinking we just needed to wait for the pandemic to run its course and then we could go back to normal. But as days became weeks and then months, we realized that we needed to change our thinking, to be able to learn how to operate with COVID,” she says.
Just as we have been flexible and worked within the limitations imposed by other contemporary crises, we will find new ways to live with COVID.
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