Debt, inflation, and COVID assistance programs are significant business concerns ahead of election

September 9, 2021
In collaboration with Leger and the Canadian Global Cities Council (CGCC), a coalition of CEOs of nine of Canada’s largest urban Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade, The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce conducted a federal election survey of its members to create a clear picture of what its members want to see from Canada’s next government.
“These survey responses show that while we might be approaching the end of the pandemic, we’re still in the early stages of economic recovery,” said Loren Remillard, President and CEO of The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. “Over the coming years there will need to be a sustained focus by the next government on helping businesses reduce debt, expanding trade opportunities, increasing immigration, and making strategic investments in infrastructure.” – Loren Remillard, President and CEO, The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce 

Increasing debt loads, the rising cost of goods, and the end of COVID-19 government assistance programs are some of the big concerns of Winnipeg business owners as they consider their options in this month’s federal election. 

These are some of the findings of a new survey of 500 Winnipeg residents and 681 members of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce that was conducted by The Winnipeg Chamber in partnership with Leger and the Canadian Global Cities Council. 

The survey also found strong support for the use of vaccination cards/passports, with 81% of both businesses and the public voicing their support for requiring proof of vaccination to enter certain businesses. 

Election priorities 

  • For Winnipeg businesses, economic recovery from COVID-19 and the public health response to COVID-19 garnered the most mentions with 18% and 17% respectively. This suggests that businesses are hoping for a government that can help usher in a return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity. 
  • Housing affordability and climate change are the most important issues that will influence how Winnipeg’s general population votes – with 34% mentioning at least one of those two issues. However, the pandemic is still very much on voters’ minds – 33% of Winnipeggers mentioned economic recovery from the pandemic and 31% mentioned the public health response to the pandemic.  
  • Indigenous issues, which have been prominent of late, were mentioned by 15% of the general population and 11% among business.  
  • Childcare, a policy debate that each of the major parties has engaged in on the campaign trail, ranks relatively low for both businesses and the general population – at 7% of mentions for both samples.  

COVID business challenges 

Nearly 18 months of public health restrictions, rising costs of goods and services, and the threat of a fourth wave of the pandemic have had a significant impact on operations for Winnipeg businesses. 

  • 72% of businesses are concerned about the additional debt they’ve taken on during the pandemic. 38% of those businesses are very concerned compared to just 20% of the general population, illustrating the elevated financial stress businesses have been experiencing.  
  • Concern about the rising cost of goods is notably high among both businesses and the general population – 79% and 90% respectively.  
  • 71% of Winnipeg’s businesses have had trouble recruiting or retaining employees due to affordability issues, while 64% of them have also had trouble hiring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • 75% of Winnipeg’s businesses are concerned about government COVID-19 supports coming to an end while 45% of the general population feels the same.  

Read the full survey here.