State of the Region: Newfoundland and Labrador

Posted on January 11, 2021 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 0 Comments

Uncertainty in an uncertain time

Leah Harris is ready for 2021.

In 2020, a year of “doomscrolling” and dumpster fire memes, she went about building her small business, Sweet Cheeks Bakery.

Pre-COVID, she’d had a second child. She’d also experienced debilitating migraines and dramatic vision loss, with an inability to properly focus her eyes, leaving her suddenly without a driver’s licence and working to adjust. In late 2019, she had a related eye surgery that returned most of her sight but not her licence.

January 2020’s Snowmaggeddon storm—and its call-in-the-armed-forces state of emergency—launched the new year. Then COVID-19 arrived and schools closed in March. Like other parents, she needed to get a handle on homeschooling for her daughter. She also worked out when and how her non-verbal son could receive assessments and then start early-intervention therapy at home.

She might start sooner in the day on those stretches when her fiancé Jim was home on turnaround, but otherwise, she’d often work on her business after tucking her children into bed.

From the beginning, she was mindful of financial limits, with greater concern extending from the uncertainties of the pandemic. “I didn’t want to immediately place us into more debt,” she says in a recent interview, explaining her caution through 2020 and small steps forward.

“With the economy right now, and my fiancé is a tradesman, he can get laid off at any moment,” she says.

Hard Realities
It is not just unfair but a disservice to suggest it’s all a matter of desire or will for a business owner to survive, let alone thrive—especially now. There’s no one story that can illustrate all the challenges in Newfoundland and Labrador, or the proper response. Because the province is not facing down COVID-19 on equal footing.

In 2020, capital spending was down, expected to land 13.6 per cent lower than the year before. Large employers made difficult but necessary decisions.

Markers of the upheaval are everywhere.

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