To a brave new world

Jeff Burgar

The story from the small-business owner a few weeks ago was not unusual.

The owner talked about how she faced enormous costs trying to keep all her staff working in the face of declining sales. She says one of her staff was concerned. The staffer asked her, “Can’t you just get a government grant?”

Business owners everywhere might roll their eyes. It is indeed common thinking all business people are filthy rich. Owning a business is easy. Governments just pass out money.

Is this all because every time there is some kind of “crisis” some big company gets a bailout? Is it because some local governments have full-time staff and consultants filling out forms and collecting “grants” from other governments to do special projects? Is it because labour groups working in government get out in force on sidewalks, waving signs wanting more money? This, as if gold-plated pensions, generous holidays, sick leave and maternity leaves aren’t enough. And in soon enough time, our political leaders sign a new agreement passing out more taxpayer money.

Gold plated pensions do exist. Heck, even some of our local government elected leaders have them. And the benefits just keep getting better and better in so many governments for all staff.

But it isn’t all one big gravy train out there. One private company drew a line in the sand when their big union wanted Valentine’s Day written in as a Statutory Holiday. President Ronald Reagan in 1988 in the United States fired all 11,000 federal air traffic controllers who threatened to hold hostage that nation’s commercial air travel. He banned those who wouldn’t come to back to work from working federally for life. The empty positions were filled with military controllers and new non-union faces. The skies were a whole bunch friendlier for a few years after that! Across the entire industry.

The finance crisis in 2008 saw massive bailouts to big business. Now, in this year of 2020, we are in completely uncharted waters. Canada’s government is throwing massive money at the problem.

As of this writing on Friday, April 3, much lack of details make it impossible to say if it is enough. $40,000 instant loans to small business sounds good. But a loan? When a restaurant has no sales? When a car dealer isn’t selling vehicles? A real estate agent can’t show a house? Are those businesses going to suddenly hire back all their staff, even when the federal government says they will pay 75 per cent of their wages?

And who pays the company share of benefits on this money? Benefits like CPP which in total often add up to more than 10 per cent of a pay package.

We have great confidence our nation, and our world can work through this to a better future. It’s human nature to want to follow the advice of Rudyard Kipling – keep a level head while all about are losing theirs. We still rush out to buy flour, yeast and toilet paper! And look for a grant or two!

So far, so many questions. So few answers. But we’re slowly, very slowly, getting there.

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