Time to work

Extraordinary sacrifices have been made to protect our health system during the Covid virus outbreak. For the first time in history, economic and social civilization was closed down. Now, for the first time in three months, extraordinary efforts are being made to restart an economy in the worst shape since the Great Depression.

We now face the prospect of the construction holiday. After three months at home, are vacations really necessary at such a critical time? This is a time to work. We know families need to get together and get away. This can be done on staggered schedules. If we close down in one shot, this will be a torrential second wave that will make any Covid second wave pale in comparison. In 2020, we can’t afford any more shutdowns. Here’s why.

We all need to understand the urgency for our economic reboot to succeed. Our governments have spent their borrowing capacities. We are the most indebted nation in the western world. If we don’t start business up again two tragedies will happen.

The first is that the wage supports and stay-at-home subsidies are quickly running out. If people don’t get back to work,the businesses they worked for will fail and millions will be on relief. Hundreds of thousands of lives have already been ruined.

The second tragedy is that without tax revenues, governments will run out of money for hospitals, schools and social security. This year. Not down the road.

The key industry to an economic restart is construction. Not just for itself. But for its offshoots. It was for this reason that at the very beginning of the lockdown Premier Legault designated construction as essential. Union pushback led to a construction shutdown.

Now there are finally 276,000 construction workers who are back. They are not only important for the projects they work on to be finished and revenues to start rolling, but for how they strengthen other businesses around them.

Struggling restaurants opening on Monday, some 30% of which may not make it, will have customers. Hardware stores, clothing and shoe stores, depanneurs, dry cleaners and pharmacies will have more as well. It matters not if a business was essential. People were not going out, revenues fell and businesses closed. This army of people is essential to their survival.

But that is not the only importance of construction workers. Many employees in small businesses are either afraid to go back to work or want to wait until their $2000 runs out in August. The greatest challenge right now,is getting the fear out of people’s minds. This army of workers demonstrates courage. Courage, like fear, can also be infectious.

Late July and early August is the traditional construction holiday. This year it must be cancelled. It must be cancelled because major projects are just starting to roll out. Money is just starting to flow. A holiday right now is just another shutdown and it will take some time to restart. We as a society cannot afford that.

More than that, small businesses that are struggling to resume, will lose a vital source of customers. They may collapse very quickly. Additionally, during construction holidays many unrelated businesses schedule vacations. So just as we are getting back on our feet, we’re going to go back to sleep. This is not a recipe for success.

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