The North Okanagan-Shuswap is blessed with a bounty of resources that have made it a fertile region for flora, fauna and people to flourish for a very long time.
Natural resources, our climate and the hard work and investments of those who preceded us have developed a base for economic growth and security. Recently, there have been emerging trends holding back some of our economic growth. In the same way that an orchardist cannot expect a full yield from an orchard lacking water, many small businesses are unable to reach their full potential because they are unable to recruit the workers they need.
I consistently hear from farms, restaurants, retail stores, professional offices and other employers about the difficulties they face in hiring the workers they need to fill shifts and provide the services their customers are looking for.
One major factor driving worker shortages is the scarcity of housing that is affordable in our communities and regions across Canada. This is why I continue to press Ottawa to support and work with the provincial and local governments to resource and incentivize the expansion of housing that is affordable for all.
Rounds of pandemic-related restrictions, openings and closings and the many persisting uncertainties have also dealt blows to our local small businesses. While restrictions mandated by public health authorities are essential, so too is the need for the federal government to support employers stretched thin by the ongoing pandemic.
Over the past 14 months, my Conservative colleagues and I have consistently called for and supported urgent measures aimed at sustaining small businesses and the jobs they provide Canadians. When the CERB created a disincentive for some workers to return to work, we proposed a Back to Work Bonus as a gradually phased out CERB top-up to support worker transitions back into the workforce. The government has failed to make this change that would help fill vacant job postings.
At the end of the day, small business employers in our region need the same thing that all employers and Canadians across our country need – we need the pandemic to end so we can get on the road to recovery. The Trudeau government has failed to secure vaccines in a timely manner, failed to secure our borders and health against three waves of the deadly virus and its variants.
These failures are the root cause of the loss of lives and revolving openings and closings of our economy that make it even harder for business owners to keep the staff they need.
I value the input I receive from employers and workers because it helps me understand what our communities and region require to reach our potential so that young workers and their families can benefit from secure employment and afford homes.
My colleagues and I will continue to press the government to develop and amend programs to secure jobs and to secure the future of small business, the good people they employ and the communities they support.
Mel Arnold is the Member of Parliament for North Okanagan-Shuswap.