After the Pandemic

First Policy Response has brought together diverse views (including my own) on how the pandemic recession differs from previous recessions and what we need to do to get through this and come out better at the other end. Key points – from my admittedly biased perspective:

Recovery will be slow and bumpy and will depend on how well we manage the virus and on the speed and extent of government investment. It’s time for boldness.

The pandemic turned the cracks in our system into chasms: our lack of preparedness, uneven access to care, the tragedy of nursing homes, the fatal consequences of prison overcrowding, our failure to eliminate chronic homelessness, and, most profoundly, our failure to reverse growing inequality and to adequately address climate change and nature loss. Recovery will require a mix of health, social and economic investments and ongoing support to families.

This is the first ever service-sector driven recession with low income and precarious workers taking the biggest hit. This is also the first time that women have borne the greatest cost of economic contraction and they have also disproportionately borne the burden of the lockdown. The pandemic has shown what we should all have known, that pay and employment equity, a living wage, safe working conditions and worker power are not only moral imperatives but serve the common good.

Women’s needs will have to be central. As Armine Yalnizyan has said, there’s no recovery without child care. Nursing homes should be brought fully into our public health system.

Indigenous people and people of colour, already facing serious social, economic and health inequities, are also at greatest risk to the virus and must be given priority. In this historical moment all of us and all levels of government must with a long overdue sense of urgency address colonialism and overt and systemic racism.

Senior governments and especially the central government have at least for the medium term considerable room to borrow and they should use it fully. Private debt is far more concerning than public debt. And senior governments must provide help now and for the long term to cash-strapped municipalities.

Sooner or later taxes will have to go up. Some revenue increases could come quickly – plugging leaks, closing loopholes, temporary excess profits taxes, increased taxes on the rich and their wealth. It would be worse than folly not to use the pandemic’s lessons to build an economy that is sustainable, resilient, equitable and inclusive and a reformed tax system that can serve as its foundation. How can we not in this moment finally take the bold actions necessary to address climate change, nature loss and inequality in all its forms.

16 Responses to “After the Pandemic”
  1. Mark Hammer says:

    Hi and nice to see you back. A damn shame to have something like the current scenario to prompt that return.
    As much as I agree that bold action is required, at the same time there will be a big need for patience; something we seem to be in perpetual shortage of. Whatever debt will have been incurred by the various investment to keep the nation, and some of its weakest, afloat, will ultimately require raising taxes. And while not forever, not for just a year, either. “Fixing” what has been neglected in the care of our nation’s eldest will not happen overnight. Certainly if it was simple, cheap, and had no unwanted side-effects, we would have fixed it long ago. So figuring out the optimal fix will take time. Addressing the many ways in which discrimination and marginalization of some groups has had impacts on their health, on health services available to them, on other support services, and the sustainability of their families and employment, will also take time.
    Many will say this is time for a societal reset. That would be wonderful, but it will not and never be as simple as pressing control-alt-delete and having everything go to square one. We will collectively try and return to first principles for as many things as we can, but some things will have to wait until other things are addressed first, undoubtedly eliciting “Hey, how come THEY got support and WE didn’t?” reactions.
    To some extent, the manner in which the current government rolled out fixes and patches for this and that, as they were all brought to decision-makers’ attention, and costed out, has provided a little bit of grooming and preparation for the way the road back will have to be. I hope there’s a bit of “Well, maybe next week” hopefulness left in people. We’ll need it if we are to emerge from this as a strong united country, rather than mere bickering factions.
    We’re all fine here on the home front, and hope you and yours are as well.

    • trapdinawrpool says:

      Absolutely taxes have to rise
      For example banks pay a lower rate than any other sector
      The 6 largest had combined profits of over 40 billion last year and remain highly profitable even during the pandemic, this seems like a good place to start

    • himelfarb says:

      Nice to hear from you – please see my response to Jean which was intended for all.

  2. Jean Fournier says:

    Bravo 👏 Excellent commentaire.



    Sent from my iPad


    • himelfarb says:

      yes taxes have to go up – and will – and as for patience that’s not the advice I give someone standing in the middle of the road when a MAC truck is barreling toward them. Move, I say, and fast. We are always asking the poor to wait, the victims of hate to be patient, to wait in line. Enough already. The experts say we have less than 12 years to turn things around on climate change and nature loss. What if they’re right? What we need is a war time effort, not patience. There have been times in our history when we were able to rise to the moment with boldness and shared purpose. We are living in a time that requires no less. Jean thanks again for your kind words. Trapped we agree as usual. Mark I always love hearing from you but we will just have to agree to disagree. I hope all of you and your families are well and safe.

      • Mark Hammer says:

        We agree. Just a difference in the nuance of our comments. I’m as much an advocate of the “If not now, when?” question as yourself. When I say “patience”, I certainly don’t mean dawdling or putting real concerns on the backburner. And I most emphatically don’t mean first-come/first-served, irrespective of urgency or priority, or some variant of “Quit your whining!”. What I mean is that problems get tackled one or a few at a time, and all those problems are in line, in single file, just like myself and all the other shoppers waiting to get in at the Dollarama.
        There WILL be competition between those who feel *their* concerns are paramount and should displace those others. We just lost a much-beloved 96 year-old aunt who was in a long-term care home that was fortunately unscathed by the pandemic. All those a little greyer than ourselves should be blessed with the quality of care she received. But how quickly can we make that happen? Some smaller fixes are easily done, and sometimes it IS little things that reap big rewards, but there is no miraculous cure, and simply adding a zero or two to the budget allocation doesn’t result in the surgically precise interventions needed, or that take time to identify and develop.
        I see the current anti-racism marches on TV. Our son attended one yesterday in Halifax (at which he reports some 95% of attendees wore masks). What is being asked for is a righteous cause. But how long would it take to achieve? I have colleagues whose business is developing selection tools for law enforcement and first responders, and I know they are concerned with diversity, equity, and the recruitment of those who will be a credit to the community they serve, and honour Sir Robert Peel’s 9 Principles of Policing. But I think we both know that exquisite selection tools don’t solve the challenge of reforming police and local culture, or the directives of their senior management and whatever political influences might exist. That all takes time.
        The public response to the pandemic has been a general exercise in patience, and more often its lack. We’ve seen all manner of misbehaviour – some of it from officials and even elected persons, as well as professionals of one type or another – whose principle motive was that they felt they just couldn’t wait any longer. They all want this to be “behind us”, whether it be the unemployment, or things as trivial as being able to go out for meal. It’s not going to happen overnight. And whatever economic belt-tightening, or even service-reductions, that might be necessitated, are not going to dissipate as quickly as our peak concern over Covid-19. We’re now just a little over 5 months into it, and many want to behave like it’s already all behind us. I’m just saying that the cleanup is gonna take a lot more than 5 months and folks should get used to that. I don’t think that’s stingy or cynical or obstinate, just realistic.
        As always, you’re a gracious host, and thank you for your reply. BTW, our other son is working on your old stomping grounds at Postal Station B. Surprised to learn that the building is under so many different jurisdictions. Parliamentary Precinct inside the walls, but NCC on the outside, city for the sidewalk, and Sparks St. merchants for other things. Weird.

      • himelfarb says:

        I agree, Mark. We are eager to see the end of this and so are susceptible to magical thinking. It’s far from over and we don’t know much about the future course of this virus. And you’re right too that there are limits of how many big initiatives governments can take on at one time though I’m with those who argue that we need a collective effort of the sort we undertook for WW2 when we achieved massive change and quickly and the Covid response might have given us a bit of a glimpse of what might be possible.

    • himelfarb says:

      Merci Jean. Nice to hear from you.

  3. trapdinawrpool says:

    There you go with your crazy talk again

  4. Beijing York says:

    I love this crazy talk! It’s good to see you posting again with some excellent ideas and observations.

    • himelfarb says:

      Pandemic crazy talk. Lovely to hear from you after all this time. Hope you are well, safe and hopeful.

      • Beijing York says:

        Dear Alex, I am well and safely surfing the first wave by being vigilant about our health and the health of other. Dear TIAW or Trapd, seeing your name here spurred me to get in touch with another of our blogging friends and we had a lovely online reunion.

    • trapdinawrpool says:

      Wow I was actually thinking of you and some of the regulars from the blogging days recently
      Great to see you still with us

  5. Jean Fournier says:

    Bravo Alex et collègues.


    Sent from my iPad

    Begin forwarded message:

    > From: Alex’s Blog > Date: October 5, 2020 at 11:04:52 AM EDT > To: > Subject: [New post] How to Pay for a Just and Green Recovery > Reply-To: Alex’s Blog > >  >

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