In addition to the pandemic’s impacts, B.C. and Alberta have faced an increasing litany of business challenges over the past few years, but nothing like those experienced in 2021. Fires, floods, and a continued exodus of capital have changed the playing field in almost every city and industry. While B.C. will focus on different areas than Alberta, there is considerable cross-over informing the trends we anticipate this year on either side of the Rockies.
Weather pushes Canada’s domestic and international supply chains to the edge
2021 felt like the apocalypse in coastal and south-central B.C. Between the catastrophic forest fires, and then flooding, thousands of residents have lost their homes and businesses. The damage has also highlighted further vulnerability in Canada’s transportation corridors and infrastructure. The governments in B.C. and Alberta will be under immense pressure to invest in potential mitigation measures to protect our national supply chain and port access. Supply chain redundancies, particularly in the rail, pipeline and trucking transport sectors will be top of mind, but all this comes with a heavy price tag—impacting services and priorities within upcoming budgets. The federal government will be expected to come to the table, but will it be enough? Simply put, there will be less money to go around, and our clients will need to remain solutions-oriented, especially in the area of financial efficiencies, to gain traction with these governments.
Talent acquisition and regulatory certainty are connected
B.C. and Alberta continue to be “open for business,” however challenges remain for those trying to understand the cost impacts of operating within the shifting sands of labour markets. Both provinces are facing significant skilled labour shortages, primarily in the energy, construction, healthcare and retail sectors, and recent legislation on paid leave/sick time in B.C. will add further cost pressure for business.
Housing affordability, rising inflation and increasing vacancy rates in both provinces are contributing to mounting costs to business as salaries are not keeping up and ultimately driving away talent. It is a jobseeker’s market and governments must consider the impacts of introducing further changes or increased regulation. And while work from home and remote-employment will continue to be the focus for office positions, our clients with field operations and customer-facing roles will need to continue to adapt their recruitment programs to remain competitive for talent.
COVID-19 vs. the economy: Cracks in leadership trust are in the spotlight
Perceived management of the pandemic has received mixed reviews in both provinces, and one of this year’s largest anticipated challenges will be the shift both governments make from pandemic to endemic approaches.
Compared to east of the Saskatchewan border, there is stark contrast in how Western Canadian provinces have approached aspects like schooling and public restrictions. Both the B.C. NDP and Alberta UCP are experiencing increased pressure from their respective bases, as well as within the parties themselves, to rebuild public trust in leadership. Efforts to balance healthcare with economic stability (dare we say, growth?) will be vital to restoring public confidence. And with 17 months before a May 2023 election in Alberta, our clients would be wise to expect political turbulence with projects and policy initiatives being viewed through an election lens.
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——— Lorèn Lailey-Irvine is a former Managing Partner at NATIONAL Public Relations