With the world slowly emerging from the worst of the pandemic, manufacturers have reason for optimism. Demand is picking up for manufactured goods around the world and, here at home, oil and gas prices have bounced back to pre-pandemic levels.
Higher prices should drive increased investment in oil and gas, which in turn drives demand for the valves, pipes and parts produced by Edmonton-area manufacturers. This is great news for business and our provincial government’s bottom line – which is in dire need of a boost.
For months we’ve been focused on the here and now, prioritizing employee health and safety and hanging on until the economy returns to some semblance of normalcy. It seems safe now to look at the future and make longer term plans.
Four things manufacturers will be keeping a close eye on:
Will there be a fourth wave? The bottom line is nobody knows what COVID has in store for us. A recent spike in new infections in the United Kingdom (which has a very high vaccination rate) is a clear warning that we may not be out of the woods. We will not return to “business as usual” until we have a high level of confidence that the virus is manageable. Businesses will continue to grapple with tough pandemic-related challenges for the foreseeable future. Can you require employees to get vaccinated or even ask them if they are? Do we continue to require masks in the workplace? After months of working from home, will workers be interested in returning to the office?
An election is coming. Prime Minister Trudeau’s minority government is riding high in the polls and Canadians see light at the end of the tunnel. At some point Canadians will be heading to the polls and much hangs in the balance for manufacturers. If there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that our politicians and Canadians generally realized the importance of a home grown manufacturing sector. Now is the time for a truly national manufacturing strategy that helps level the playing field so Canadian manufacturers can compete globally.
Alberta government is building a manufacturing strategy. In the 2021 budget, the Alberta government committed to developing a sector strategy for manufacturing – something we at Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters have been seeking for years. An Alberta manufacturing strategy must look at ways to de-risk investment in equipment and technology and diversifying markets. We’ll be making some suggestions.
Global supply chains are still wobbly. Container shortages and rising shipping costs hit manufacturers hard. Shortages of microchips, semi-conductors and a range of other key products have even forced some manufactures to temporarily shut down. How soon can we expect a return to normal for our once-reliable supply chains? Again, this unique phenomenon underlines the importance of local supply chains. Perhaps the pandemic brings lasting change.
Alberta manufacturers are cautiously optimistic about their short-term future. A looming election and a provincial manufacturing strategy on the horizon give manufacturers a needed change of topic as we head toward fall.
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) is the voice of Canadian manufacturing. CME represents more than 2,500 companies who account for an estimated 82 per cent of manufacturing output and 90 per cent of Canada’s exports.