Second StatCan/Canadian Chamber survey shows businesses adapting to distinct new “paradoxical” phase of COVID-19

OTTAWA, ON – July 14, 2020 – The second wave of the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC), a Statistics Canada study supported by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, was released today, providing new insights into the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on Canadian businesses. The Canadian Chamber President and CEO, Perrin Beatty, issued the following statement regarding the data:

“The survey is Canada’s second comprehensive view into how our businesses are coping, and how they are planning and executing their reopening. The first survey, conducted at the beginning of the pandemic, showed that businesses were primarily concerned with liquidity challenges and decisions to lay off staff.

The second survey data shows businesses are adapting to a distinctly new, paradoxical phase of the pandemic, where businesses reopen because they can no longer afford to remain closed, but struggle to break even while paying for pre-COVID level costs with significantly reduced revenues.

The business owners I speak with are clear-eyed in their understanding that the truly hard part begins now. The data on the reopening stage of the pandemic has shown three key challenges for businesses of all kinds.

First, getting Canadians back to work. So far, 22% of businesses were able to access the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and, of those, nearly half reported the program allowed them to hire back 30% of their workforce. Another quarter of businesses approved for the wage subsidy reported that it allowed them to bring back 100% of their workers. However, looking forward, this effect appears to be stalling, as 65.8% of businesses reported they expected their staffing levels to remain the same over the next three months. Together, these numbers show the need to expand the eligibility criteria for the wage subsidy to bring back workers and build on the momentum from reopening and job gains in this next phase of the pandemic.

Second, rent relief remains a major challenge for businesses. Only 25% of businesses report having the benefit of rent relief. Three-fifths (60.1%) of the businesses that make rent or mortgage payments had not requested or been offered the option to defer payments owed. As we approach this new phase, rent relief programs will need to be improved and made more accessible to commercial tenants.

Finally, safety measures remain a priority concern for businesses, owners, workers and customers. 80% of businesses expect to need personal protective equipment or supplies as physical distancing measures are relaxed. However, over one-fifth of businesses are experiencing difficulty in procuring personal protective equipment or supplies. Increasing access to PPE will be crucial in this next phase of the pandemic to enhance consumer confidence while we live with the virus in our midst. This will be particularly important for some of the hardest-hit sectors that require a physical presence, such as food services, accommodation, retail and the arts.

The balancing act between declining revenues and hard costs remains in place. Revenues are still down, even with reopening underway (52% of businesses say revenues were down by 30% or more year-over-year in April). At the same time, expenses haven’t disappeared (41% of businesses report their expenses had stayed the same year-over-year). All together, the viability of some businesses remains uncertain (one-fifth of businesses say they could not continue at current revenue and expenditure levels more than 6 months before considering further staffing actions, closures or bankruptcy).

Finally, the survey also provides the deepest insight into the decisions and impacts on diverse business owners during the pandemic to date, including but not limited to:

  • Women-owned business are 7% more likely to be adapting their products or services for customers than the national average.
  • Indigenous-owned business are 14% more likely to be adapting their products or services for customers than the national average.
  • LGBTQ2-owned businesses are 9% more likely to be adding new ways to interact with or sell to customers than the national average.
  • Black business owners are 15% more likely to be increase use of virtual connections or e-commerce than the national average.

Today’s data demonstrate that we have entered a new phase of the pandemic, where getting to economic recovery will require adapting the wage subsidy to get Canadians back to work and building confidence in returning to economic and social activities with health as a priority. Now is the time for governments to start transitioning from subsidies to growth as our economy reopens.”

Additional Quotes

“Statistics Canada is pleased to continue our strong partnership with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to bring much needed data and insights to guide governments and businesses during the COVID recovery phase. We are only able to provide this value thanks to the active participation of business owners who believe in the value of data to guide decisions.” – Anil Arora, Chief Statistician of Canada.

“The timeliness and relevance of the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, on the scale Statistics Canada has delivered it, will be an enormous help to both the public and private sectors as they manage this crisis. The Canadian Chamber is a proud partner in developing critical data that supports informed decision-making by policy makers and business leaders alike,” said Perrin Beatty, President and CEO, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

For more information about the survey, click here.

About the Canadian Chamber of Commerce – Because Business Matters

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce helps build the businesses that support our families, our communities and our country. We do this by influencing government policy, by providing essential business services and by connecting businesses to information they can use, to opportunities for growth and to a network of local chambers, businesses, decision-makers and peers from across the country, in every sector of the economy and at all levels of government, as well as internationally. We are unapologetic in our support for business and the vital role it plays in building and sustaining our great nation.

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For more information, please contact:

Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Phil Taylor
613.797.1860
[email protected] (preferred and fastest response time)

Statistics Canada
Media Relations
[email protected]