Publisher’s viewpoint: How things can change . . .

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You can read current coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario Construction News.

By Mark Buckshon

A few weeks ago, I was on a cruise boat in the South Pacific with my wife, enjoying lengthy sea days before visiting a remote Polynesian island, Nuku Hiva. With free onboard Internet, I read the rapidly improving stock market data, thinking to myself, “this cannot last”.  At home, staff and contractors were managing the publishing business quite well and we were looking forward to a second vacation at the end of April – a bicycling tour in southern Spain.

How things can change . . .

The cruise ship we were on has discharged all of its passengers in Perth, Australia, as the entire cruise industry goes into lockdown. In fact, virtually anything to do with travel and sport is on an indefinite break. Health authorities are bracing for the COVID-19 virus crisis that is decimating Europe to arrive full-scale in Canada, perhaps by the time you read this posting.

We’re entering uncharted territories for public health and the economy.

In some respects, the construction industry should be relatively unaffected, at least in the short term.  The order backlog of major projects is incredible, and while there is a risk of infection everywhere, in the context of the current pandemic, job sites probably are much healthier places than sports arenas. Professional services can operate in “home office” mode.  Technology helps save the day for industry communication and collaboration.

My vacation is certainly over and bicycling this spring will need to be on Ottawa’s paths rather than in Andalusia, Spain. (At least I can do that – the gym I use has closed, and I expect most other public exercise facilities will be shut down for the duration of the crisis.) I’ll take on  hands-on editorial responsibilities, replacing freelancers who helped out while I was on vacation, so I’ll now truly have to earn my salary with real work.

On an optimistic level, all crises end and we can reasonably foresee the situation resolving within a year. But we need to take care, managing our businesses for slower times in the meantime as we respect public health authority recommendations and requirements, both as individuals and as businesses.

Mark Buckshon is president of the Construction News and Report Group of Companies, which publishes Ottawa Construction News. He can be reached by email at buckshon@cnrgp.com.

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