The pandemic has been disorienting, but it has only just begun.
By Patrick Flannery
I have never in my life seen a level of disruption to life and business like this coronavirus business. Previous outbreaks such as SARS and H1N1 came and went without me doing anything different except possibly squirting a little more hand sanitizer when I went into hospitals. The announcements just today have included Canada closing its borders to all travellers from outside the continent, the death toll in Italy climbing over 1,800 and Tim Hortons closing its dining rooms. Add those to the suspension of all sports leagues, the kids being home from school and the impossibility of finding any toilet paper anywhere and, well, if this isn’t the apocalpyse, I can’t tell the difference. And, by all accounts, we are only at the very start of this thing.
On March 10, I was still struggling with a decision as to whether to go to Las Vegas to attend a massive construction equipment show. That I was even considering travelling internationally to join 130,000 people from all over the world at an indoor event where shaking hands is the primary activity seems today, March 16, to be beyond belief. On March 11 I posted a notice on glasscanadamag.com letting people know that Top Glass was still scheduled to go ahead on April 22. By the end of the week, the idea was unthinkable. So Top Glass has been postponed, along with just about everything else, to the fall. The new date is Sept. 29 and because of all the scheduling conflicts we had to change venues to Paramount EventSpace in nearby Woodbridge, Ont. The space looks great and we think it’s going to be a terrific show because by then everyone is going to be more than ready to get out there and shake hands again.
But of course the postponement of a trade show is small potatoes in all of this. We are all facing serious worries about the economic impact of this pandemic. By the time you read this, huge sectors of business will have been shut down for weeks. Oil fields have essentially stopped production, not just because of health concerns but also because the price of crude has dropped below $20 a barrel. The stock market has absolutely cratered. Airlines have mostly stopped flying and laid just about everyone off. The entire hospitality industry is at a standstill, except for takeout food. The entertainment industry has stopped. Retail has stopped. Not just slowed down or seen a reduction – completely halted. Construction projects have been allowed to go forward in most of the country, but work is slow and nothing new is being started. We are in for a recession the likes of which we have not seen before, and only smart moves by business owners and government will prevent the kind of structural damage that leads to a lasting depression.
So far, it looks like the right attempts are being made. Check out our special coronavirus news section on page 22 for highlights of what has happened in the industry so far. The bill to keep life afloat in Canada so far has run to about $200 billion in government spending. Here’s hoping it’s enough.