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Opinion: Celebrate Small Business Week with a little kindness

editorial oct 21
This Small Business Week, let’s all make an effort to cherish those who are working in our community right now.

Maybe it is just me, but nothing feels predictable right now.

Normally this time of year we hunker down for that intense fall rain (though I have to admit last weekend’s rain felt biblical!), then as the skies clear we lift our eyes to the mountains to see a fresh blanket of snow covering the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and we feel like all is right with the world.

We’ve got our ski passes, our new equipment thanks to the always-amazing Turkey Sale, we’ve grabbed the few things we missed at the Sidewalk Sale last weekend, the snow tires are on, U.S. visitors and others are on their way to help us animate our home resort for winter—we are feeling good about the coming season. 

Right?

Not this year.

If anything, I would describe the underlying feeling in the resort as anxiety—there’s a kind of mild panic informing us and if I’m honest it’s like I can’t kick the “flight” response that I seem to be harbouring.

Last week we learned that many of our frontline workers are facing more and more disrespectful behaviour from those they are trying to help or serve.

And we have been reading in the headlines for months now that the toxic behaviour of many towards those working in the service industries such as servers and hotel staff is only escalating as they are now also having to check Vaccine Passport Card status and so on.

So I have a suggestion as we celebrate Small Business Week—let’s all make an effort to cherish those who are working in our community right now. I’m talking about all the servers in restaurants, bars, coffee shops, bakeries—all of them. I’m talking about all the cleaners, the hotel staff, all those who work in the retail sectors and all our amazing grocery stores.

(And yes, though they are not small businesses, support our local municipal workers, our police, ambulance and all our healthcare workers too.)

Maybe our smiles, and the fact we made a choice to shop locally, and our words of encouragement can’t make up for those who lash out in frustration, but it could change someone’s day, and maybe that is enough for now.

The last 19 months has been hell, really it has. Some businesses have not made it, many have had to re-invent themselves; all of them have been profoundly affected by the pandemic.

And it’s not over yet.

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) a large number of small businesses are still struggling because of the pandemic’s fourth wave. It’s found that only 76 per cent of small businesses are fully open, only 45 per cent are fully staffed and only 49 per cent are bringing in normal revenues.

Added to this is the fact that many small businesses took the offer of government loans to help them bridge the shocking impact of COVID-19. The CFIB estimates that small businesses in Canada now owe a collective $139 billion.

It’s true that many have been able to keep the wolf at the door thanks to government subsidies, but at least two of those, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, are set to end Oct. 23—ironically the final day of Small Business Week this year.

So, more uncertainly lies ahead of us. And simmering under all of this is the reality that Whistler simply does not have enough staff for a busy winter.

Businesses are getting creative with wages, shifts, and more, but many staff are also asking themselves about the levels of compensation they are getting considering the stress of the jobs they are working.

We are not alone in this. Recently, ski towns in Colorado banded together to bring workers in to fill more than 8,000 open positions—113 companies hosted a virtual jobs fair. No word yet on how successful it was...

As we draw closer and closer to winter-resort season one thing is abundantly clear, the light at the end of the tunnel is still a long way away.