It was just a few months ago that Mayor Cam Guthrie was telling everyone in his State of the City address about getting the Task Force on Homelessness together again to discuss supportive housing. Circumstances have changed rather quickly though, and now Mayor Guthrie is looking to explore another type of support for Guelph in the form of economic action post-COVID-19 with a whole new task force.
“During these unprecedented times, the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic are felt by every member of our community, including local businesses,” said Mayor Guthrie in a statement released Thursday night.
The new task force was informally announced at Thursday’s special meeting of city council. It will bring together local business leaders, government representatives, and community organizations with the goal of sustaining, developing, and maintaining the local economy by re-establishing old connections, and building new resources. The group will meet on a monthly basis for the next year.
“While the health and safety of our community remains my primary concern, I also recognize the need to ensure businesses are supported and well-positioned to rebound from this crisis as quickly as possible,” Guthrie explained. “I am grateful to Guelph’s local business leaders who have volunteered to share their unique perspectives and expertise as members of this task force, and I know our community will be made stronger and more resilient as a result of their efforts.”
In terms of the specific composition of the task force, the City says that Guthrie will be joined by Member of Parliament Lloyd Longfield and Member of Provincial Parliament Mike Schreiner, while city councillors Cathy Downer, Dominique O’Rourke and Mike Salisbury will act as liaisons between the task force and city council.
Representatives from the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Guelph Business Association, Innovation Guelph and the Business Centre Guelph-Wellington will also be taking part in the task force, as will representatives from various Guelph industries like manufacturing, construction, education, energy, hospitality and tourism. The first meeting of the task force will be this coming Wednesday, April 22.
A story in the Guelph Mercury Tribune on Thursday reported that there could be thousands of job losses just within the downtown business area alone. That was according to Marty Williams, the executive director of the Downtown Guelph Business Association who said that there’s “catastrophic levels of job loss and income loss” in Guelph.
According to Statistics Canada, the Guelph area, which includes Puslinch and Guelph-Eramosa, saw a rise in the unemployment rate by two-tenths of a per cent between February and March from 5.1 per cent to 5.3 per cent. The national unemployment rate is presently is 7.8 per cent, which is an increase of 2.2 per cent from February.
On Tuesday, the Guelph Chamber will be hosting another town hall with Guthrie, Schreiner, and Longfield to discuss the latest government support for business at all level. You can register to attend the webinar here.