The Road to Recovery

From the Editor / L. Ian MacDonald

Welcome to our issue on the Road to Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected more than 100,000 Canadians in the space of only a few months, with a tragic death toll of over 8,000 by the beginning of summer. In the United States, there have been more than 2 million cases, and some 115,000 deaths; the highest national death toll in the world, with thousands more to come.

The substance of our conversations has many new entries, from social distancing to working from home, to say nothing of kids being home from school. The economic damage has been devastating and disruptive, as millions of Canadians lost their jobs in the shutdown.

As the COVID toll declined and the economy showed signs of resilience, there were grounds for optimism that Canada and the world were indeed on the early steps to recovery.

But make no mistake, the pandemic will have lasting effects on public and fiscal policy in Canada. 

Hence our cover package, on lessons learned and a look ahead.

Geoff Norquay, who spent years as a senior official working on health care and public policy, looks at the epicentre of it all—the crisis in long-term care for seniors, which has accounted for 80 percent of the deaths in Canada from COVID-19.

Liberal insider John Delacourt examines the federal-provincial management challenges of health care, a provincial jurisdiction largely funded by the feds. In the LTCs alone, he notes, “the provinces are struggling to manage this crisis with limited help or leadership from Ottawa.” The economic renewal will be largely in municipalities which, as he also points out, are constitutional purviews of the provinces.

McGill University’s Laurette Dubé writes that the pandemic presents a transformative opportunity. As she writes in Toward a Convergence Economy: “Planning the recovery and beyond for the COVID-19 pandemic are woven in the fabric of modern economies and societies, in particular at the intersection of health and economic systems.”

Goldy Hyder and Brian Kingston of the Business Council of Canada offer a realistic outlook on the prospects for recovery. As they write: “It is increasingly apparent that Canada will experience a multi-speed recovery with stops and starts that will affect different sectors in different ways.”  

Policy Associate Editor Lisa Van Dusen, whose work in both the U.S. and Canada has included covering international financial institutions and countless federal budgets, looks at the intersection of technology, global debt and democracy post-pandemic in COVID-19, Democracy and the Future of Work.

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan makes the point that in any conversation about clean energy, Canada begins from a position of strength, especially in renewables: “The diversity of our energy sector is our underlying strength. It is that diversity that will carry Canada through this short-term storm.”

Dalhousie University’s Lori Turnbull, co-winner of the Donner Prize, has a sense that the pandemic will trigger a throwback to the constitutional politics of the 1980s and 90s, with intergovernmental affairs and Charter politics dominating our discourse.

Our lead foreign affairs writer Jeremy Kinsman evokes three junctures of the modern age: the emergence of the multilateral world order after the Second World War in 1945, the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the collapse of markets in 2008. The difference between then and now? The Americans were engaged and there was leadership in the White House.

Robin Sears looks at post-pandemic China, and the fall, literally and figuratively, of China’s masks in a way that has seriously downgraded the reputation of Xi Jinping. 

And our columnist Don Newman sums up with a post-pandemic political perspective.

In Canada and the World, from her vantage point as a thought leader and independent Black senator from Nova Scotia, Wanda Thomas Bernard considers the killing of George Floyd as a catalyst for change in Collective Rage Requires Collective Action. It is a withering indictment of anti-Black racism and police brutality in Canada as well as the United States.

Finally, we offer reviews of two excellent books for summer reading. James Baxter thoroughly enjoyed Professional Heckler, Terry Mosher’s biography of the great political cartoonist Duncan MacPherson. What makes the bio by Aislin so compelling, Baxter writes, is that it reads “as if Mario Lemieux were recounting the life story of Wayne Gretzky.”

And former Maclean’s Editor Anthony Wilson-Smith sees many strengths in David Frum’s Trumpocalypse, including “the ability to turn a neat phrase, and the diligence to support his assertions with a mountain of research.”