Politicians of all stripes and of all levels need to tread lightly when it comes to the impact of COVID-19.
That is particularly true the next few weeks in Saskatchewan as both provincial and municipal candidates take to the hustings to woo voters to their cause.
There is of course no doubt that COVID-19 is at the forefront of our minds these days, as it has been for the last several months. It does appear to be the constant elephant in the room.
But, is it the economic bugaboo politicians are suggesting it is?
Or, is their constant flogging of how dire the situation is, or could be, simply creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?
There is a fear, certainly for some running for Council in Yorkton, that municipal coffers are going to end up significantly short this year as property taxes go unpaid as a result of COVID-19.
That of course is yet to be determined.
In terms of employees, there have of course been business doors shut, and workers laid off for days, weeks and even months.
But one hopes the programs offered by the federal and provincial governments have buffered the financial impact. Certainly, some will have fallen through the program cracks as rare is a support program that manages to successfully aid everyone, but it does not seem dire for most.
Businesses too seem to be in the same boat as employees. Some have no doubt been hit hard and may well be teetering on closure, and in saying that it means greater numbers than is normal, as business closures are not unusual in general. Statistically, about 20 per cent of small businesses fail in the first five-years, and a similar number not surprising lose money.
But, again there have been government programs to help some.
And, others have seemed to be doing quite well, as stories of strong sales in some retail sectors suggest.
What does that all mean?
Well from a politician’s point-of-view, that while caution may be prudent heading into the first months of 2021, suggesting COVID-19 is reason to pull back on spending by government sends a concerning message to voters.
If government is pulling back from investing because of the pandemic then as individuals should we put our bank cards in a drawer and put off all but essential purchases? That would seem the message.
However, how does that decision impact the local economy?
We hear the same politicians asking people to rally to buying locally in support of businesses through the pandemic, but are beginning to shy away from spending themselves. It is at best a mixed, confusing message.
And, if we follow the lead of paring back spending in the face of COVID-19 are we simply fulfilling the aforementioned prophecy as we cut into local business returns, and threatening their ability to pay taxes?