When canadNow made predictions about the approaching pandemic there were a lot of uncertainties. The most immediate was the social impact: would we flatten the curve or end up like Italy and Spain, with patients dying in hallways and the healthcare system completely overloaded.
Locking down was never completely about stopping the spread of Covid itself, nor was it an over-reaction to disproportionate fear for a virus appearing to have a relatively low mortality rate.
It was done to protect hospitals. To protect those with sudden, but normal, life threatening issues like heart attacks requiring immediate hospital treatment. If corona was left to run amok, it would have indirectly killed many more everyday Canadians who just needed hospital access for typical health emergencies.
We are now in a national position where many jurisdictions report having beat the numbers, and graphs show the curves are indeed flattening.
Hospitals were not overwhelmed and re-opening is no longer a far off dream.
Although a vaccine is still some time away, this is as best a scenario as anyone could have asked for.
Our journey has been a rocky one, with very reasonably answers demanded at every stage of this unprecedented lockdown: questionable data from China, missed diagnoses by the WHO, and constantly shifting, sometimes hypocritical, direction from Canada’s own public policy makers.
The government does deserve some slack, as information and realties rapidly shifted. Major decisions, affecting an entire nation’s health and safety, were made on an almost minute-by-minute basis.
Now the focus turns to revenue generation and the growing federal deficit.
The government can only singlehandedly support the country for so long before serious questions arise about restarting the economy and producing government revenue. Due to Canada’s recent, and very necessary, financial support mechanisms, we are facing the prospect of a degradation of our national credit rating.
If we get downgraded, more taxpayer money will go toward servicing federal debt due to higher interest rates.
We are facing a major deficit this year, and this is on top of federal deficits we were already making worse by spending over our income when the economy was still in the positive.
Due to the impending recession, the year over year deficit will naturally increase and measures will be taken. These measures will be tax increases, service cuts, or both.
That being said, Canada is in a very good fiscal position overall, tied at the top with Germany among G7 countries, but any delays in responsibly rebooting the economy and getting revenue streams back to normal will put pressure on our rating and our future spending options.
So what will this reboot look like?
The Way Out
One thing is certain: it will be a tricky process.
We need to prevent another major wave of Covid-19, whether by rapid community spread from loosening restrictions too quickly, or being ill-prepare for flu season come next fall.
Having to endure another major lockdown will not only come at the cost of more lost lives, but put us further in the red, indirectly disrupting many more livelihoods.
A metered, patient approach will be our reality until a vaccine is found. There is no magical alternative.
We need to work together, continuing to protect our most vulnerable while respecting effective social policy. World attitudes on Covid-19 are now coalescing into universal, working frameworks most of the world agrees on.
Not only do we need to follow these guidelines to protect those most at risk of Covid’s complications, but to ensure consumer confidence — that individuals can engage in public business without unnecessary risk of either catching the virus, or spreading it.
It is easy to say we need to protect life at all cost, but if that is our only priority we will run out of purchasing power to even support a nation in perpetual lockdown, let alone maintain the health care system.
As some jurisdictions in the US allow rapid re-opening counter to the growing consensus of social distancing, they put themselves at risk of giving up anything gained from lockdowns, and will likely prolong their economic damage.
Places able to carefully return to normal will have a significant comparative advantage because they’ll have a head start producing and generating revenue.
Market opportunities will appear where Canadian products and services can fill gaps exposed by slower recoveries in other places around the world.
Canadians should feel very proud of our work so far.
The process is certainly not without criticism, but the fact we see the first glimmers of normal routine less than 2 months after the most serious global pandemic in over a century is a noteworthy achievement.
Going forward, we should keep the broader perspective in mind: respect how much we need everyone’s teamwork to get through this, to position ourselves with all the economic opportunity and social advantages commensurate of a G7 nation.