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EDITORIAL: Staff shortage hitting critical levels

One can’t help but notice the abundance of help wanted signs in the Bow Valley.
May 12, 2022
Cartoon by Patrick LaMontagne/

One can’t help but notice the abundance of help wanted signs in the Bow Valley.

The lack of staffing is at critical levels and shows little indication of relenting as the busy tourism season is about to descend on the region.

While tourism organizations are predicting a visitation season less busy than pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, it will be far busier than the previous two summers.

Though the demand to visit one of the more scenic areas of the country will return, the level of staffing has yet to rebound.

The shortage has not only impacted restaurants and the service sector, but all levels of employment from municipal government, public transit, physical labour, industrial and commercial-based jobs.

The region is seeing a significant lack of staffing; it can’t just be put on fewer international workers coming to the mountains.

The cost of everything – from food, rent, gas, child care and entertainment – has skyrocketed and made affordability the most pressing topic.

If an employer isn’t willing to pay a living wage, they’re going to struggle to find a workforce.

Of course, not all employers are in the position to do so. Many of the small businesses are themselves struggling to survive.

The Job Resource Centre’s spring labour market review painted a dismal picture, calling referring to the situation as a staff drought as the shortages have gone from being seasonal to impacting all 12 months of the year.

In the past, the lower-earning positions have typically borne the brunt, but the May 3 Canmore council and May 10 Municipal District of Bighorn council meetings showed doctors are also struggling to make any headway in the community as physicians retiring aren’t being replaced.

While not formally declared, the Bow Valley is in a housing crisis. There are next to no rentals and the ones that are available either come with roommates, take up half or more of a paycheque or both.

Inflation is at a 30-year high and a Statistics Canada study found one in seven Canadians were experiencing food insecurity as of May 2020. The staggering number is a 10.5 per cent increase from 2018.

Statistics Canada also reported 915,500 unfilled positions in the fourth quarter of 2021, which was a 63 per cent increase from the same time period in 2020. In the Bank of Canada’s Business Outlook Survey for 2022’s first quarter, nearly half of businesses said they have plans to spend more on machinery and equipment in an attempt to curtail the labour shortage gap.

The Canadian Rockies never have a shortage of people who want to visit, live or work, but many decide to not enter the labour force locally after they look at the cost of groceries and rent.

There are no easy answers to solving the problems facing the various communities in the valley.

All three levels of government need to work together to address the affordability issues. Without the three at the table, little can be successfully solved. Community organizations are key and have shown themselves to be willing partners in helping locals.

Stores will close earlier than normal some days and not be open others, the wait time to get food and drinks will likely increase and important services people rely on will likely take longer than expected or potentially erased.

Until the situation improves in the Bow Valley, locals and tourists need to have patience and kindness in relating to one another.