CHARLOTTE COUNTY – The COVID-19 pandemic has put an incredible strain on everyone, particularly businesses that have had to change their methods of operation while the country was essentially shut-down in order to curb the spread of the virus. Now borders are re-opening and things are getting back to normal, Canadians find themselves in the midst of a federal election. For most people, the issues in this election are pretty simple, with the main focus being recovery following the pandemic and the housing crisis.
Charlotte County chambers of commerce are weighing in on what they perceive to be the biggest issues in the Monday, Sept. 20 election, and the general consensus shows that supporting businesses and tackling the housing shortage seem to be of the highest importance in the region.
Gerald Ingersol, president of the St. Andrews Chamber of Commerce, feels it has been a particularly quiet election. He said this has been an “extremely busy season”, with most people working hard to make the most of the hand that has been dealt to them over the past 18 months.
“It’s been a quiet election,” said Ingersol. “It’s come at a time when things are very busy. It’s not top of the list that people are talking about. Everybody pretty much has their head down and they’re working pretty hard to make the most of it, particularly after the re-opening of COVID. We’re pleased that we find ourselves where we are when we get back to business after COVID. That was handled very well. We assume that the post-recovery would go well on that.”
Ingersol said the main issue the St. Andrews Chamber of Commerce is looking at is housing, which is a issue throughout the province. He said the housing challenge has become a big concern, and it is important to look at this in order to be able to support people living in the area.
“The thing that’s closest to us is the need for housing, and all parties are speaking to that,” said Ingersol. “I know the federal parties are all talking about trying to create some initiatives to increase available housing. That’s seen as a good thing. I think all parties have a platform on that, one way or the other.”
Another issue that is a high priority for the St. Andrews Chamber of Commerce is the Campobello ferry. Ingersol said the chamber was involved in a study a couple of years ago on the need for year-round ferry service to and from the island, and they feel that the federal government needs to step-in and do something to help the people who live and work on Campobello.
“The study that was done was quite clear on that, and the issues that we’ve had since 911 and during COVID have made that all the more difficult. We’d like to see some federal commitment as to working to provide access to the rest of Canada for the folks that are living and working on Campobello.”
Sara Conley, president St. Stephen Area Chamber of Commerce, thinks one of the biggest priorities in this election is reopening after COVID-19, and how to keep people safe while at the same time, “getting people into stores and buying local”. Another big issue is concerning what will happen once the border with the U.S. finally re-opens completely.
Conley said local businesses really stepped-up during the pandemic to ensure they were able to meet the needs of residents, which people need to keep in mind. Conley said she understands people want to cross the border to visit loved ones and shop for items they can’t get on this side of the border.
“I do hear quite a lot,” said Conley. “In my personal life, I hear a lot of people commenting how they are looking forward to being able to go back to Calais for certain items. I completely understand that, obviously. But, just keep at the top of peoples’ minds, maybe while the border’s been closed, maybe we’ve realized how much is actually available, and how willing our local businesses, how far they’re willing to go to get what we need at great prices.”
According to Conley, these past months have been a great lesson, and a time for everyone to learn just how great this area really is. Local businesses are doing what they can to bring in what people need, and at affordable prices.
“Our local businesses are trying to bring in what we need and have great prices as well,” said Conley. “I understand people wanting to go across, and I fully support wanting to support businesses in Calais as well, because we really are just one big community. They have been hurting as well. But, it’s just keeping that in the front of your mind, how far our businesses have gone here to get what we need.”
The Saint Croix Courier also contacted the Eastern Charlotte Chamber of Commerce in St. George, but did not receive a response by press time.