BALDREY: How successful our reopening turns out to be is up to us

As The Great Reopening comes into view, it is not yet entirely certain whether our provincial economy will reawaken itself and if so how.

The job statistics are truly jaw dropping. More than 400,000 British Columbians are out of work right now, an astonishing situation akin to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

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Back then, the Second World War essentially rescued the economy as industrial production ramped up with astonishing speed.

But what is supposed to rescue our economy this time? The answer may be: you and me.

For now and likely for several more months the big spenders in terms of economic activity are the federal and provincial governments, who collectively are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on financial relief programs for the approximately two million people out of work across the country.

As a result, the days of balanced budgets at both the federal and provincial levels are long gone. Even the idea of balancing the books – considered an almost sacred principle mere months ago – now seems like a ludicrous endeavor.

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James will not put a number on what kind of deficit her current budget will incur, but it is fairly easy to figure out some parameters. The government’s $5 billion financial aid package alone will push the deficit to at least $5 billion. Plunging government revenues from taxation will likely add billions of dollars more to that figure.

As we approach our own date for the reopening – it is May 19th – businesses in all sectors will have varying degrees of success as they try to open their doors or simply stay in operation.

It is expected that many restaurants will remain closed even if the public health order limiting them to takeout and deliveries only is lifted. Bars and nightclubs will remain closed by order at least until fall.

Nevertheless, some restaurants and pubs will reopen. And so will other businesses who can successfully adapt to new rules in the workplace – the need to keep everyone at least two meters apart and limiting the number of people on the premises at any one time are two of the key ones – will find a way to survive.

However, any long-term survival depends on all us. In other words, we have to turn into consumers again.

We have to patronize the businesses and charities whose survival may be key to any of us still working to continue to hold onto our own jobs down the road. Those of us lucky enough to have a job right now, or an income that is in no danger of disappearing, almost have a duty to take the kind of action that assists our own community’s economic health.

And it has to be done in ways that adhere to the new guidelines, our “new normal.”

It is clear we are about to have a summer the likes of which we have never seen before, at least not in most peoples’ lifetimes.

We are not supposed to gather in large groups, or even in medium-sized ones. Our social circle should remain small and we must maintain our physical distance from each other. Events will be few and far between.

But we can still spend money on each other to help our economy reawaken and get moving.

The Great Reopening is only days away. How much of an opening it turns out to be depends mostly on ourselves, and not just on governments.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.   

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