Restaurants Canada commends the federal government for making supporting people and businesses as long as the pandemic lasts one of its four priorities for the upcoming parliamentary session.
Restaurants and the many small and medium-sized businesses that make up the Canadian foodservice sector are a critical pillar of our culture, economy and local communities. Before the pandemic struck, our industry comprised approximately 98,000 establishments from coast to coast to coast, contributing 4 per cent to the country’s GDP and serving about 22 million customers every day. The foodservice sector was Canada’s fourth-largest employer, directly employing 1.2 million people and providing the number one source of first jobs. Restaurants also provided significant support to their local communities, contributing an estimated $460 million to charities each year.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has left much of our industry fighting to survive. By April, more than 800,000 foodservice workers had lost their jobs or had their hours cut down to zero. In fact, foodservice lost more jobs in the first six weeks of the pandemic than the entire Canadian economy lost during the 2008-2009 recession. While the latest Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada reveals foodservice employment has risen by 355,000 jobs since May, the sector remains 260,000 jobs short of where it was in February. No other industry comes close to this level of shortfall.
Because of the unique impact this crisis has had on our industry, and the implications for other industries that largely rely on a thriving foodservice sector for their survival, our hopes were high that today’s Speech from the Throne would send a clear signal that small businesses like restaurants would be a priority for the upcoming legislature.
Welcoming renewed commitments to supporting people and businesses
Restaurants Canada commends the federal government for making supporting people and businesses as long as the pandemic lasts one of its four priorities for the upcoming parliamentary session. We applaud the government for committing to act on our recommendation to extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which will ensure hardworking restaurant owners will be able to keep their operations going, employing as many Canadians as possible. We also welcome commitments to extend and build on other measures to support businesses struggling to survive under ongoing restrictions.
Based on industry data collected since March, Restaurants Canada estimates that at least 10 per cent of independent foodservice establishments have permanently closed over the first six months of the pandemic. Largely thanks to measures that this government has introduced since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the vast majority of restaurants have been able to remain operational and continue contributing to their communities during these extraordinarily challenging times. But without continued and additional support, Restaurants Canada estimates that another 40 per cent of independent restaurants might not survive until March 2021.
While we recognize the significant support that the federal government has provided during the early days of this pandemic, the reality is that any subsequent waves during the colder months will have a devastating impact on the foodservice industry and could wipe out the tenuous path to recovery our sector has worked so hard to build.
We recognize the government’s vision to build back a better Canada, promising changes and a new era of environmental policies, while giving time to business and Canadians to adapt. We encourage the government to ensure any new measures under consideration take into account the challenging realities of operating a business during the ongoing pandemic and continue to create conditions that support Canadians returning to work.
A thriving foodservice sector is critical to Canada’s economic recovery. Our industry supports a wide variety of businesses, indirectly supporting more than 290,000 jobs and typically spending more than $30 billion per year on food and beverage purchases, playing a critical role for Canadian farmers and the agri-food sector.
Restaurants Canada looks forward to continuing our work with the federal government to ensure the needs of our sector are addressed during these extraordinarily challenging times. Our hope is that the fiscal update and more tangible measures following today’s speech will provide further reassurance to our members that they will receive the support they need to continue contributing to Canada’s recovery.