As we start our gradual resumption of life post COVID-19 pandemic, we need to give serious thought to economic recovery, and especially an economic recovery that will benefit all of us.
It will be important to ask ourselves how we got here, and what can we change to create a more equal and fair society and economy. Our hope is that the pandemic has sparked us all to demand better.
During COVID-19, we continue to see enormous gaps in many of the practices, policies and laws that benefit some at the expense of others. Sadly, our community heroes who keep us all safe, are some of the most undervalued and most vulnerable citizens in our country. The majority of those who hold the front line, and ensure essential services are available to us, are women. Women have been disproportionately impacted throughout this pandemic, their work historically undervalued. Any economic recovery must be gendered, inclusive and focused on reducing inequality.
It is clear that as we emerge from a long health crisis, our Canadian economy will face an even longer economic crisis; which means governments will be asked to come up with measures to get the economy back on its feet.
There is no call for less government or less taxation when governments are providing support for us to survive the pandemic. Addressing the immediate issues of income support, wage protection, business sustainability and other measures, have permitted a much-needed boost – a bridge – to allow the country to focus on keeping people healthy. Now it’s time for unprecedented measures to get our nation back on its feet.
As in the past, austerity agendas have failed us, and with predictions of high unemployment, business closures and steep declines in GDP, we look to governments to take on the responsibility of investing in and growing our economies.
That means investing in a strong public sector and quality public services. The private sector will not have the capacity to invest what will be necessary to drive economic growth. Our governments must take the lessons learned from COVID-19, and invest in health care, long-term care, public and social infrastructure, reconstruction, public transportation and the environment; all important to sustained and robust economic growth, supporting local businesses, communities and people.
Government investment rebuilt economies after the Second World War. We know it can be done. We have an unprecedented opportunity to hit reset on our economic recovery and address the gaps and inequities that have been exposed in our economy, as well as in our physical and social infrastructure.
We can invest to create a society that looks after each other. We can fix our ailing healthcare system and create national standards in health care and long-term care. Now is the time to invest in a universal, single payer national Pharmacare Plan.
Much needed investments in education and training, publicly funded childcare and early learning and better services for vulnerable populations, as well as the organizations that look after them, will pay dividends well into the future.
Retrofitting homes and public buildings will create jobs and help our environment. Investments in green housing will help thousands of low-income Canadians. Also, access to high-speed broadband access in all parts of Canada, especially low-income, isolated and rural communities, is a critical need – more so in a crisis that isolates people.
It’s time to be different and act differently. We can’t listen to the same old mantra. Putting the rich and powerful in charge of driving the economic recovery won’t force the change that is needed to address inequality, poverty and fairness.
Economic recovery cannot mean listening to the same old voices that got us where we are now – an economy with a widening income and gender gap, heightening rates of poverty, homelessness, increased violence and growing inequality, as well as poorly underfunded and inadequate public and community services.
Critical to our recovery will be a process that brings all stakeholders to the table; including business and labour, community and those voices who are traditionally unheard.
We can do this, together. With the right leadership and investment by governments, we can rebuild our economy by building a healthier, safer and more sustainable world; a world where no one is left behind.