Snow on Saanich Peninsula has closed down Viking Air, manufacturer of the Twin Otter 400 Series aircraft. One business official estimates Sunday’s snowstorm could cost the local economy millions (Black Press File)

Economic impact of a snow day could be millions, say business leaders

State of infrastructure also under scrutiny across Greater Victoria

This week’s snowstorm will cost the local economy millions, while raising questions about the lack of social infrastructure for working parents.

Denny Warner, executive director of the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, said the aftermath of Sunday’s snowstorm could end up costing the economy on the Saanich Peninsula about $2.5 million based on available figures and estimates.

According to the best available figures, some 2,500 people work in the industrial area of the Saanich Peninsula, generating close $1 billion in revenues each year, said Warner. This means about $2.5 million in lost revenue for each day of lost productivity if Sunday’s storm impacted all industrial businesses, he said.

While Warner said it is not clear how many of the 2,500 workers actually missed work Monday, at least 400 workers working at Viking Air Limited, Sidney-based aerospace space manufacturer with branches across western Canada, did not come to work Monday. It — like some many other businesses large and small — closed its doors Monday, because staff could not make it work because of the snow that fell Sunday.

While Warner is not sure how many others would have followed Viking Air, many of the many large employers will have make the same call, with another round of snow forecasted.

“Even if they could get to work today, with the snow projected to fall in the afternoon, they couldn’t guarantee people could get home safely,” he said.

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Monday’s closures are not just impacting the bottom lines of businesses but also the personal pocket books of employees.

“I am not sure what other company’s policies would be about snow days, but the employees at Viking will not be paid for today,” said Warner.

Overall, Warner expects the impact to be significant, partly because many 0f the small businesses in the region, rely on staff from elsewhere.

“It will impact the retail stores in downtown Sidney, because they rely on staff who commute often from Victoria,” he said. While transit buses are running in Victoria, they are not on most routes on the Peninsula, he said.

Catherine Holt, chief executive officer of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, encouraged everyone to be patient today.

“Commuting will take a little longer, though many workers in Victoria’s public sector and technology sectors are fortunate to have the option of working from home,” she said.

This said, Sunday’s snow storm has also drawn attention to the need for more social infrastructure. With schools closed across the region, working parents have been left scrambling to look for alternatives.

“An event like this week’s snowfall really shows how much pressure our region’s workforce is under and why we need more child care spaces as well as improved transportation options,” she said.

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