Mar 16, 2020

What a Global Pandemic Can Teach Us About Local Economy

I have been receiving messages of concern about the impact of recent events on local business and supply chains. Like many of you, I am hearing from workers and small businesses worried about their future, while trying to do their part to protect our health and safety.

Over the past two years I have been listening and working to try to optimize the role our City can play in the success of the local economy, but now, more than ever, it’s clear that our City needs to be an active partner in helping our communities and businesses stay strong and resilient.

Right now we need all of our focus to be on getting everyone through this and working together to slow the spread of the virus. But we can also keep in mind there are ways to soften the impact on our neighbours. Buying from local retailers and avoiding hoarding mass amounts of supplies can help. Checking in online or by phone on folks you know in your neighbourhood who are isolated or may be struggling without childcare or wages can also make a difference.

As we await official word from City Council, the Mayor, and Administration, I want to share my thoughts and actions on community and local business support:

Today in a press conference, Mayor Don Iveson announced pending provincial plans for financial supports for local businesses. The Prime Minister asked all Canadians to stay home, and for many around the world, our borders will be closing. We need to work together to support our communities, small businesses, and the local economy.

At the city level, a review of everything- from the way we administer property taxes to procurement, living wages, investment in infrastructure, and support for entrepreneurs and social enterprises- needs to ensure we’re maximizing our resources and potential to benefit workers, vulnerable residents, and the local economy. I’ve started this work and will continue as it becomes safe again to get together with stakeholders and when city governance meetings resume their regular course.

Two years ago I started the Food and AgriBusiness Diversification Initiative to increase local business opportunities and sustainable food security. We have all visited a grocery store in the last week and seen empty shelves. Our food system is not broken, but there is great opportunity for us to create resilience. Our supply chains are long and often reliant on companies outside of our community. COVID-19 is a lesson that our current systems are not robust enough. This is our opportunity to create better support for our workforce, food, agriculture, childcare, healthcare, mental health/social isolation, and our small businesses.

The steps we take now will have long-term impacts on how we address these systems in the future. I’m optimistic about what this change can look like. This is where work such as my food and agriculture initiative comes into play.

In the future, as things settle, I’ll continue to hold roundtables with the community and businesses to chart steps forward and an action plan to strengthen our food system and truly support local businesses.

The business community is asking for our support. We are committed to working in partnership with Edmontonians and business owners to develop solutions and supports to keep our local economy thriving. Edmonton’s small and local businesses are adamant that the health and safety of both citizens and staff remain the top priority. We know that many businesses have moved inventory online and increased sanitation, food safety, and hygiene practices that exceed Alberta Health Services standards.

Now is the time to buy and support local.

If you’re missing the farmer’s market, you can order local products online that can be delivered to your door at

The provincial and federal governments have announced support for small businesses. We will advocate these funds to come to Edmonton.

If you are a small business owner, take a look at the resources below. We will stand by you, support you, and grow together.