A loosening of public health restrictions will benefit some businesses in the capital, but not all.
Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce president Tim Syer called the recent rule change a “small piece of good news for Yellowknife businesses because it should take some pressure off their supply chains and labour shortages.”
However, Syer thinks the changes don’t go far enough to create a more favourable environment for NWT businesses, pointing to existing requirements, such as non-resident non-essential workers needing to secure permission from the chief public health officer to enter the territory.
“As other provinces and territories increase their vaccination rates and ease their restrictions, the NWT risks being left behind,” Syer said. “As the latest Statistics Canada figures show, the NWT economy shrank by 10 per cent in 2020 while Nunavut and the Yukon have shown more resilience.”
He said the remaining restrictions imposed by the CPHO, Dr. Kami Kandola, will be an “anchor” on the territory’s economic recovery until they are rescinded. That’s expected to take place in the fall.
“Mobile labour and capital will find jurisdictions more welcoming and this will compound the already considerable economic challenges facing this territory.”
The Emerging Wisely 2021 timeline states that all restrictions on leisure travel, self-isolation and indoor gatherings could be lifted by mid-fall if 75 per cent of NWT residents over 12 years of age are fully vaccinated and if the seven-day average of daily new COVID-19 infections is under 1,000 cases nationally.
Engineers at Golder Associates expect business to carry on much as usual.
The rule change makes it easier for the earth sciences engineering company to bring up staff from the south, but it still must submit self-isolation applications to the GNWT so that workers can be deemed essential, said project manager Damien Panayi.
“We have hired enough people locally in Yellowknife to be largely self-sufficient for our NWT field programs, and we remain committed to keeping a strong team in Yellowknife,” he said. “We have to anticipate that this easing of restrictions may only be temporary if (new) COVD-19 cases are detected. Golder also wishes to remain cautious and not just meet the letter of the law but that we do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Geotechnical engineering firm Tetra Tech, which similarly has adapted to relying mostly on its Yellowknife staff, will benefit from the rule change because those local employees will be now able to forego self-isolation.
“We are able to complete most of our work without southern workers, though we do have some upcoming specialty projects that will require staff from one of our southern offices,” said manager Rob Girvan.
One issue with southern staff, Girvan said, is that most have only had one vaccination dose so they might not be able to arrive as soon he would like.
“Hopefully it will be like last year when we were able to get essential workers up,” he said.