In Canada, we tend to think of a pandemic more as a historical event than a risk in the future. However, during the last hundred years alone, the world has experienced nine pandemics, from the Spanish Flu at the end of the First World War to COVID-19 today, and this has claimed the lives of many Canadians and disrupted many more livelihoods.
Indeed, COVID-19 is the third time in the 21st century that Canada has been struck by a pandemic and, with the scale of global trade, extraordinary global travel and tourism and increasingly intensive urbanization throughout the world, it would be foolish not to anticipate shocks in times the front that comes from everywhere and affects everywhere. As political scientist Robert Kaplan observed, “The crisis made history progress quickly.”
So, looking beyond the unprecedented social and economic cessation and punishing recession we are experiencing today, what are the initial lessons for Canada to act after a pandemic?
First, federalism worked very well during this crisis, maybe better than in decades, and we must build on this.
Premiers Horgan, Ford, Legault and McNeil have stood out during this crisis, innovating the best way to implement shutdowns to protect public health, communicate clearly and privately, and put their health experts forward to explain to the public the need to avoid social and shutdowns.
The federal government helps coordinate and unite these measures, lead fiscal actions to provide liquidity support to companies and households throughout the country, and the Prime Minister himself has become a constant, consistent, and confident communicator. And when a gap in the entire province arose to access personal protective equipment and ventilators, Prime Minister Jason Kenney answered the call and sent it.
This is in sharp contrast to the United States, where relations between the government and several large countries have turned into situations that could not be more dysfunctional and undermine public confidence. In the aftermath of the crisis, the state of public confidence will be an important factor that allows, or inhibits, for the economy to return to work.
In the post-19th COVID world, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must take good intentions in the provincial capital and host the First Ministerial conference – not on constitutional issues or fiscal transfers but on establishing and maintaining a world-class emergency response system in the inevitable events of the pandemic of the future front.
Such a robust system would include a strong global early warning system, adequate surge capacity of protective equipment and key equipment in the national embankment, testing and tracking facilities throughout the country, and the availability of ICU beds per capita.
Second, global supply chains will be heavily restructured post-pandemic, and Canadian and Canadian companies must have a clear view of what our national interests are, what risks we face because of the actions of others, and equally important, where opportunities lie .
There will be more market oversight and regulation of international corporate supply chains, and greater pressure to shorten and diversify global supply chains so that they are not too dependent on one country or region. There will be initial pressure to localize the health supply chain for vaccines, therapies, protective equipment, and other “pandemic essence”.
Geopolitics and nationalism will raise their ugly heads as we have seen with President Trump and the protective masks. The result of all this, besides reshaping global trade flows and increasing resilience, will increase costs. Western consumers, one of the main beneficiaries of globalization, will see the price of widescreen TVs, tablet computers and cell phones getting higher.
For Canada, our prospects depend entirely on us. If the tiny Florenceville, N.B., could become the frozen capital of French fries in the world, of course, we could create a lively health care supply cluster and medical research triangle between Toronto-Waterloo, Ottawa and Montreal. With world-class universities, teaching hospitals, research institutes, and a commitment from the government to never lack again, we must take this opportunity to shorten supply lines and build surge capacity.
That can be done. Israel, a country with about a quarter of Canada’s population, but with clear and current needs for self-sufficiency, has become a global leader in medical devices, with 700 medical device companies exporting devices worth more than one billion dollars a year.
Our third point is that we should not let the disruption crisis facing education, as a result of a pandemic, be in vain. At the university and college level, Canada must be a leader in facilitating the safe return of international students, both from a public health perspective and on their own, to Canadian institutions, both directly and virtually.
This will require careful and thoughtful planning and coordination between universities, public health experts, and the government. International students contribute around $ 6 billion in tuition to Canadian universities and more than $ 20 billion for the economy as a whole, but the impact is far broader in terms of Canadian soft diplomacy and in building networks around the world.
In the K-12 system, the opportunities for change in culture and practice are even greater. Recently, there was a heated education debate in Ontario about compulsory online courses and a provincial plan to ask students to take four online courses to get a high school diploma.
What was not popular at the time had become a necessity because of COVID-19. This move to virtual learning environments is not smooth for many teachers, students and parents, but some elements of virtual learning are not temporary or optional in the post-pandemic world. Canada can be a global leader in producing online education and distance learning materials / applications, as well as building greater flexibility and resilience into our education system.
To do this, we need near universal broadband access, technological innovation in teaching tools and the willingness by educators and parents to embrace change. Rural communities and indigenous peoples will benefit greatly from the re-orientation of such educational devices.
Our fourth point is the importance of eliminating public anxiety about their lives and their livelihoods caused by the pandemic and extreme uncertainty that surrounds it.
To the extent that the decline in institutional trust is a defining aspect of Western economies and societies after the financial crisis, something that Edelman’s trust survey shows very clearly, a sharp decline in public confidence about their personal and economic health can be a lasting consequence of this pandemic. The implications of such a continuing decline in trust will ripen widely and negatively through the workplace and far beyond that.
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Just as physically alienating between individuals will be important for capturing a pandemic and cutting fuel, individuals and their attitude towards the future will be key to economic recovery. And, in this case, we must remember that Canadians were quite pessimistic about their prospects before the pandemic: only 35 percent of Canadian respondents to the Edelman Trust Barometer survey last fall felt that they and their families would be better in the next five years. time.
To overcome the increasing anxiety and fear among Canadians will take a clear and credible plan and transparent communication: in the health sector, a feeling that we will be better equipped to face a pandemic in the future; in economics, that governments and companies get their thoughts on how the Canadian economy will adjust to the post-pandemic world; and on the fiscal side, how we will deal with the massive increase in government and private debt in the country.
The more we do this with a sense of cohesion and purpose, with open and honest communication, the more likely we are to increase public trust and trust which is important for citizens to go out and spend and for managers to recruit and invest.
And this brings us to our final point: we need formal national efforts to develop these plans, which are non-partisan, focused, and time-limited.
The government must use the Investigation Act to appoint respected Commissioners from across the political spectrum – people like Rona Ambrose, Jean Charest, Christy Clark, John Manley, and Thomas Mulcair, as well as respected independent experts such as retired Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz . Given the rate of disruption and the degree of uncertainty, the investigation must be limited to 12 to 18 months and must focus on a number of key economic questions that will shape our post -emic future.
We will suggest five important avenues of investigation.
First, the debt plan on how to deal with an explosion of public debt and new fiscal contracts relating to government spending and taxation in an era of high debt and deficit.
Second, how do we restart productivity growth because this, not cost cutting, is the only sustainable way to raise wages, increase growth and improve competitiveness.
Third, how can we sustain Canada’s strong energy sector and make progress on climate change and the environment at the same time? – “either or” is not an option.
Fourth, how can we diversify Canadian trade into a separate global economy, make better use of existing trade agreements and build new alliances?
And fifth, what kind of workforce and workplace will be in the near future, including skills, technology, and immigration, and how can Canada be a quick adapter for this new reality? The key role of the Commissioners, like the McDonald McDonald Commission over 35 years ago, is to convince Canadians of the importance of change – not just to produce reports.
COVID-19 is the biggest crisis of our time. Like much of the world, we were caught red-handed and feet flat despite the apparent tsunami gathering.
We will overcome the immediate threat, but let’s make sure we come out of the crisis confidently – not daunted – and with a clear plan for the future to face the challenges and opportunities. Crisis is always a period of change; we must use this to improve our policy game and build resilience in the future.