In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Canadian Chamber of Commerce president Perrin Beatty said while many of the larger businesses in Canada learned lessons from the SARS outbreak in 2003, similar lessons can be learned around the need to diversify supply chains for smaller businesses.
“We’re certainly urging particularly smaller businesses and medium-sized businesses to develop contingency plans,” said Beatty, pointing to situations such as if a supplier becomes unavailable, inventory runs low or employees on the ground in China might not be able to work.
“These are all lessons that larger businesses learned to deal with after SARS, but often smaller businesses don’t have those plans in place and to need to.”
The outbreak was first identified at the end of December. Over the course of recent weeks, it has infected more than 30,000 and killed more than 600 people.
The overwhelming majority of those cases are in China, although two deaths have been reported in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Four cases have been confirmed in Canada with no fatalities.
But roughly 50 million people are in the region under quarantine, with 11 million of those in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
Wuhan has been locked down, with all roads in or out of the city blocked by authorities as they grapple to contain the virus.
And there are growing concerns that companies relying on imports from the industrial region could start to feel the pinch.
Wuhan, for example, is an automotive production hub, and its unprecedented quarantine could impact those factories along with others producing phones and crystal displays for things like televisions.
Beatty said it drives home the need for companies to have diverse supply chains.
However, he said he expects any economic impact to Canada to be minimal.
“It’s certainly manageable,” he said. “Yes, it does impact economic growth in Canada in a negative way, but it’s something that we can overcome and we can manage and we will still see positive growth through the year.”