The Government of Ontario released “A Framework for Reopening Our Province” on April 27, 2020. The framework outlines the following phases of Ontario’s response to COVID-19:
- Phase One: Protect and Support,
- Phase Two: Restart, and
- Phase Three: Recover
The Province also provided principles the government will use to reopen businesses, services, and public spaces in gradual stages. Among the principles guiding decision making in the reopening phase, the framework recommends responsibility to public health, evidence-informed decisions, responsiveness and effectiveness, and ongoing monitoring.
Within Phase 2: Restart, is a three-stage approach to incrementally reopening businesses, organizations, and public spaces. Each stage will last for approximately two to four weeks, which will allow for close monitoring of any impacts or potential resurgence of COVID-19 cases. Following each period, the Chief Medical Officer of Health may advise to:
- Reapply or tighten restrictions based on a surge of cases or outbreaks;
- Maintain the status quo; or
- Progress to the next stage.
This incremental process, with the ability to advance, pause, or move backwards, is in place to limit any risks to people and public health. Further, the ongoing data collection and analysis, paired with monitoring and evaluation, ensures that each progressive step is made only with the consent from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Comparing the Ontario Framework to existing Economic Recovery models
The Economic Developers Alberta (EDA) has developed a Community Toolkit for Economic Recovery and Resiliency, which guides activities over an emergency management continuum from intervention to recovery. The concepts of incrementality, ongoing monitoring, data collection, and data analysis are central to most disaster recovery plans. These four interdependent phases can be undertaken sequentially or concurrently, and are informed at every stage by environmental scans, leadership, risk assessment, capability improvements, and performance assessments. While the number of stages or the names of phases may differ, the guiding principles remain the same from model to model.
An Optional Model for Economic Recovery in Rural Ontario
As a resource for community economic development in rural Ontario, there has been some thought to what a similar framework might look like for communities, in light of COVID-19. The framework starts with a response, or more particularly, the immediate and short-term actions your organization takes to address the impacts of the event (e.g. closures, engagement surveys). Following immediate response, tactics should move into stabilization – of the community and the economy (e.g. business retention actions, policy revisions to support new operations/conditions). Over the longer-term, communities can begin to think about growth – or more simply, a return to more typical economic development like investment attraction and infrastructure investment.
Like all leading practices, movement through the stages is guided by data collection, analysis, performance measurement, and continuous improvement. As with Ontario’s overall plan, the results of activities at any of these stages may result in revision of activities at that stage, continuation of activities at that stage, or movement to activities in the next stage.
Through each one of these stages, it is important that actions and tactics take place in a strategic manner and incorporate considerations for one or more “pillars” of community economic development activity: leadership, data, policy, and communications.
Stay tuned to this blog, as we start to assemble guidance on how rural communities and economic development organization can start to address the impacts of COVID-19 through this framework, using tools and resources from our current programs for rural economic development (e.g. business retention and expansion, strategic planning, downtown revitalization, performance measures) and leading practices in disaster recovery.