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COVID-19 second wave eroding small business confidence in Canada

Last Updated Oct 29, 2020 at 7:16 pm MDT

PHOTO. Franklin Ave. Jenna Hamilton/ Morning Reporter.

EDIT: A previous version of this article listed a runny nose and a headache as two symptoms to be removed from the COVID-19 symptom checklist for people under 18. The symptoms should be a runny nose and a sore throat.

Confidence in small business across Canada decreases as cases of COVID-19 spike.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said its latest business barometer fell six points in October to hit a five-month low of 53.3.

The barometer measures the outlook of entrepreneurs, and where they expect to be in about the same shape in a year.

CFIB said this result is negative for entrepreneurs hoping to grow their businesses.

A rating of 100 would indicate all businesses expect to be in better shape in 12 months, while zero means all businesses think they’ll be in worse shape.

The results suggest that after a rebound in economic activity and optimism over the summer months, the new wave of the pandemic weakened the outlook of entrepreneurs.

Business confidence was lowest in Quebec at 42.2, while entrepreneurs in Nova Scotia were the most upbeat with a reading of 63.1.

These results again appear influenced by the severity of the second wave in those provinces.

By industry, 10 out of 13 sectors recorded lower confidence in October, with businesses in hospitality, transportation and personal services the least optimistic about the year ahead.

CFIB chief economist Ted Mallett said the decline in business sentiment is broad-based.

“We’ve known for a long time that businesses would react negatively to any resurgence in the virus as well as to measures that governments take to help bring things back under control. That’s really being reflected in the kinds of things that we’re hearing from our membership.”

The business barometer also found that “capacity utilization” of businesses, which shows how much work they’re doing relative to what they could do at full capacity, plateaued at about 70 per cent.

Mallett said CFIB found one in five businesses are running at full tilt, while another third are running at 30 per cent capacity or less.

“When firms are only at 70 per cent capacity, it means that they’ve got the same high overhead but without the same revenues. That’s why we’ve been really been pushing for help on rent relief and wage subsidies.”

Mallett said while small business owners want to be in better shape next year, the index of 53.3 shows some considerable financial uncertainty.

COVID-19 outlook

Alberta reports three recovered cases of COVID-19 in Wood Buffalo.

All are within the urban service area, which has 36 active cases, one death, and 307 resolved cases of the illness.

Outside the urban service area, there are still seven active cases and 64 resolved cases.

CNRL Horizon, Suncor’s Base Plant, and Syncrude’s Mildred Lake site remain on Alberta’s list of COVID-19 outbreak locations.

Since the first full day of the Face Covering Bylaw in effect in the RMWB, there were two active cases and nine recoveries.

In the last 24 hours, there are 477 new cases and five additional deaths of COVID-19 across Alberta.

Currently, 130 Albertans are in hospital.

Chief medical officer of health, Dr Deena Hinshaw announced a revised symptom checklist for children under 18.

She said as of Nov. 2, kids with a runny nose or a sore throat will not need to isolate.

Hinshaw encouraged Albertans under 18 to monitor themselves for 24 hours.

If symptoms improve, she said children don’t need to get tested and can return to normal activity, including attending school or participating in sports groups.

More than 3,400 children and youth tested last week for COVID-19 reported having a sore throat, with over 700 of them reporting it as their only symptom.

Less than one per cent of their tests came back positive.

When asked about mental health implications of a potential lockdown, Hinshaw said she hopes to make the first six months of the year public at a later date.

Data is preliminary, but Hinshaw said Alberta did not see an increase in the number of suicides compared to previous years.

“I believe this is a complex issue, not just about [the] imposition of public health measures or not, but it’s multi-factorial and there are many things that contribute to people’s mental well-being, and there is always help out there.”

Hinshaw previously referenced a survey Health Quality Council of Alberta of youth from Spring 2020.

The study indicates significant increases in people reporting mental health challenges, increases in anxiety, and depression.

Hinshaw said Alberta need to support Albertans’ whole health: Managing the spread of COVID-19, and ensuring restrictions aren’t far-reaching.

Alberta has 4921 active cases, 318 deaths, and 21,803 recovered cases of COVID-19.

This article includes excerpts from The Canadian Press.