The SARS epidemic generated moderate damage to the Canadian economy, but this damage was brief. At the sectoral level, the SARS epidemic had a pronounced negative effect on the Canadian economy in the second and third quarters of 2003. Industries that bore the brunt of the contagion included tourism and hospitality, and the film industry. Toronto's billion-dollar-a-year film, television, and commercial business was badly damaged by the epidemic of 2003, as foreign production houses withdrew their operations from the city. According to Joe Hal-stead, then Toronto's commissioner of economic development, the SARS epidemic resulted in a decline of production, resulting in a loss of $163 million (roughly 18 percent) for the film sector in 2003. Commercial production in the city exhibited a similar decline of $32.8 million in 2003 (roughly 20 percent).22 These statistics were compiled from permit applications that production houses must file with the City of Toronto. Tourism in Ontario also took a significant hit as a result of the epidemic, with Toronto witnessing an estimated a decline of 18 percent during 2003, largely as a function of the epidemic and its aftereffects.23 According to Jeff Dover of KPMG, the SARS epidemic resulted in the loss of approximately C$993 million in the Tourism sector of the Canadian economy during the second and third quarters of 2003.24
On the macro level, SARS seems to have been largely responsible for a pronounced economic downturn in the Province of Ontario, where it resulted in two consecutive quarters of economic decline in 2003. Ontario Finance Minister Gregory Sorbara noted that the widespread decline was "an economic downturn that was driven by SARS."25 According to Finance Ministry estimates, Ontario's real GDP fell by 0.7 percent in the second quarter of 2003, and by a further 2.5 percent in the third quarter. The economy rebounded in the fourth quarter, when growth reportedly increased by 4.5 percent.26 The Minister of Health for Ontario during the epidemic, Tony Clement, revealed that SARS had cost the province's health-care system $945 million as of June 27, 2003. Cost increases were associated with extra staffing needs, special supplies required to protect health-care workers, and expenditures to build specialized SARS isolation and treatment facilities.27 The best estimate is that the contagion cost Ontario at least C$1.5 billion in 2003.
Global SARS-induced economic damage in 2003 amounted to US$40-50 billion. This seems relatively minute compared to the multi-trillion-dollar global economy; however, the damage becomes more apparent when it is stated in terms of a loss to the annual GDP of a given country. The economists Lee and McKibben analyzed the effects of the epidemic, and their most conservative models estimated that SARS generated a 2.6 percent decline in GDP for Hong Kong, and a 1.1 percent decline for mainland China, during 2003.28 The Asian Development Bank estimated that SARS induced a 1.1 percent decline in GDP per annum for Singapore as well in the most conservative scenario.29 Those figures represent a significant drag on economic productivity per annum for those affected countries, and therefore we may conclude that SARS constituted a substantive threat to the material interests of those countries.
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