Aaron Wherry in Search of a Silver Lining

 

It's hard to imagine much good coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic but the CBC's Aaron Wherry sees a distant glimmer of hope.

What, asks Wherry, if the pandemic embedded itself in the consciousness of our political caste? What if the ordeal paved the way for a new awareness of coping with crisis - er, crises - that are looming in our not distant future?

A once-in-a-century pandemic certainly counts as a crisis ...but COVID-19 is not the only crisis MPs have identified in the last 12 months.

The word also has been used to describe opioid addiction, inflation, the cost of housing, mental health, labour shortages, the fall of Afghanistan, the state of long-term care, sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces and, of course, climate change.

...Perhaps the pandemic — while exacerbating some pre-existing problems — has made us more attuned to the other problems around us. Perhaps it has lent new urgency to all sorts of things.

In the case of climate change, the pandemic has offered instructive parallels. It also has coincided with a run of wildfires, storms and heat waves that proved the next great existential crisis is already here.

Like water seeping through the cracks in a wall, the pandemic has exposed every fissure and flaw in our political and social structures. The worst failures — the death toll among the elderly in long-term care, the inequity of global vaccine distribution — have been glaring. Future reports will catalogue many mistakes and misjudgments.

In some cases — as Duclos recently conceded when discussing the Public Health Agency of Canada — institutions weren't designed to do everything they're being asked to do now. Our lack of preparation for a pandemic might be put down to a failure of imagination.

But the pandemic also has shown that political leaders, public servants and citizens can move with incredible speed to confront a problem. We've seen profound suffering but we've probably avoided much worse. We've had some real policy successes with things like domestic vaccination and government financial supports. Big things have been done.

Maybe Canadians will come away from the pandemic with higher expectations. With the capacities and imperfections of society and government laid bare, citizens might now ask their representatives to move faster, smarter and more boldly.

Wherry is right. He's absolutely on the money. Governments in Canada, federal and provincial, need to rediscover they're more than a glorified Chamber of Commerce constantly greasing the engine of GDP growth while paying mere lip service to the great threats of the day and of our tomorrows. One way or the other, for good or bad, we are shaping the future today. The damage of neglect may, probably will, be irreparable. 

We need leaders with vision and courage to change direction, to chart a new course. We need the sort of leadership we haven't known for decades.

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