Kingston launches recovery team to mitigate local economic impacts of COVID-19

Economic Recovery Team, KFL&A Public Health plan for future reopening of the local economy

The team consists of nine local representatives and one special advisor from sectors across the economy.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

With an economic recovery team and three-phase plan to reopen the economy, Kingston is working to combat the economic impacts COVID-19 has had on local businesses. 

Mayor Bryan Paterson shared details about Kingston’s Economic Recovery Team with the community on May 11. The team, created to represent the different sectors of Kingston’s economy hit hardest by the pandemic, aims to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy and begin the recovery effort.

“These are the sectors where businesses are most at risk of failing, where many people have lost their jobs, and where most of the change and disruption is going to continue for the month to come,” Paterson said in an interview with The Journal. “We’re going to talk about what it is these businesses need to survive and how do we make that happen.”

According to Paterson, the team has three main focuses: helping existing local businesses survive, helping them adapt to evolving restrictions, and assessing “long-term rebuilding” of Kingston’s economy. 

The team will operate for one year, with the option of renewing for additional one-year terms if required.

Meeting regularly over Zoom, a video chat platform, the group’s members will plan and coordinate both short and long-term strategies to respond to the pandemic’s impact on the economy. The team consists of nine representatives and one special advisor.

Paterson, the chair of the team, represents the City of Kingston and the public sector, along with Lanie Hurdle. Tim Pater represents the restaurant sector, Aba Mortley represents the personal services sector, Susan St. Clair represents the retail sector, Sean Billing represents the accommodation sector, Bhavana Varma represents the non-profit and charitable sector, Dan Corcoran represents the construction sector, and Tricia Baldwin represents the cultural sector.

“They all have their own area of expertise, they’re all very well-respected in each of these sectors, and I think they will help to guide the work we’re going to be doing over the next year,” Paterson said.  

Dr. Kieran Moore, the chief medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, is acting as the team’s special advisor.

“He is going to help ensure that as our economy reopens […] we’re doing it in a safe way where health concerns will continue to be on the forefront,” Paterson said.

The team will also receive support from the Kingston Economic Development Corporation and the City of Kingston and will report regularly to the Kingston City Council.

In their recommendations, the team is seeking to balance the economy with public health concerns, according to Paterson. He said they’ll use a “wide-range” of sources from both the economic and health perspectives, consulting data about the progression of the pandemic, where job losses are occurring, and where businesses are struggling the most.

As the group progresses, they intend to incorporate perspectives from more Kingston sectors including education, post-secondary institutions, finance, employment services, and labour groups.

“We’ve started with a core of representatives from the sectors that have been hardest hit, but the goal is to build out the team from there,” Paterson said. “It’s a collaborative approach.”

Though the group has not yet decided exactly what this expansion will look like, they’re already working closely with Queen’s representatives. The Smith School of Business and Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre are currently working with local businesses to provide advice and support.

“Ultimately, I think having the perspective of Queen’s, but also St. Lawrence College and RMC, will be very important,” Paterson added.

Due to begin sometime in the next week, meetings will be open for public listening and reports made to City Council will also be public. 

Earlier in May, KFL&A Public Health also released its plan to reopen the local economy following pandemic-related closures. The plan is designed to integrate with Premier Doug Ford’s provincial plan to reopen the Ontario economy.

The plan proposes a phased approach to relaxing specific public health restrictions that involves reopening certain businesses, and then waiting two-to-four weeks to monitor changes in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. 

Depending on the rate of new infections, KFL&A will then decide to either reinstate previous measures, maintain the status quo, or move on to the next phase.

On Thursday, Premier Ford announced that Ontario can enter stage one of reopening on May 19. According to KFL&A, select businesses will be permitted to reopen with modified operations in this phase. These businesses include retail stores smaller than 800 square metres with outdoor entrances, businesses that perform outdoor work, boat ramps and marinas, repair shops, and construction work.

During stage two, businesses including interior contractors, certain non-essential health services like dentists and chiropractors, repair and property management, restaurants and cafes with outdoor patios, and certain outdoor spaces like playgrounds may reopen.

In the third stage, the most at-risk businesses, including personal services, theatres and playhouses, all retail stores, galleries, and museums may reopen. At this stage, large public gatherings will still remain restricted.

When The Journal inquired about which phase allows Kingston post-secondary campuses to reopen, Dr. Azim Kasmani, KFL&A resident doctor, wrote in a statement that the future of these institutions is being considered on a number of timelines.

“These are large institutions with a variety of activities, and different aspects of their activities will be activated in different phases,” Kasmani wrote. “We are providing public health guidance to both institutions as they plan their next steps and await direction from the province regarding specific activities.”

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