By Lynne Lund, MLA District 21 Summerside-Wilmot
Official Opposition Critic for Green Economic Development
The Premier’s Economic Recovery Council could well be a very helpful tool. According to a government press release on March 30th, the council was established with the expressed intent of engaging the business community to advise the Premier on the road to recovery, and on the challenges they face as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Of course, this prompts the questions: which parts of the business community are we engaging? And who’s missing from the table?
First rule: don’t talk about the economic recovery council
Since the announcement, the Official Opposition and the media have been endeavoring to get these details, but to no avail. It seems the first rule of the economic council is “Don’t talk about the economic council”. But that is not helpful! So, why do details of this economic council matter in the first place? The questions you ask at the onset have a profound impact on the answers you wind up with at the end.
For example, an economic recovery council that is composed of businesses centred around tourism will raise different needs and recommendations than what other primary industries would raise. Small businesses – our theatres, restaurants, book stores, farmers markets, music, and dance studios – have different needs and perspectives than large corporations. Retail businesses have different needs than non-profits. Workers, especially those in front-line and high-risk services, might have different views and concerns than their employers.
Secrecy is not the way forward
The impacts and way forward for each industry can vary greatly, and it’s hard to imagine building an economic plan for all these sectors without fulsome engagement. I reiterate it is difficult to do that when the membership and procedure of the council are a secret.
How we move forward from COVID-19 will be one of the most important economic undertakings of our times. By some accounts, we are entering a new era where we have the chance to fundamentally change certain aspects of our economy for the better. The advice the Premier receives from this council will play a significant role in shaping our response. And it will inevitably reflect those who are at the table.
Will government please tell us about this economic recovery council?
Is the Premier relying solely on the advice of people who were successful in the old economy – one marred by growing inequality and unfairness? Or is the Premier creating space for voices that have traditionally been left out of the discussion? Or how about those with a vision for a fairer and more equitable economy? Until the Premier is ready to be fully transparent, it’s hard to say.