As we gradually start returning to a new normal after the COVID -19 pandemic, we need to think about how we plan our economic recovery.
Here are some of the questions we should be thinking about as we do our planning. How did we get here? What can we change to create a more equal and fair society and economy?
Existing inequalities became obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw enormous gaps in many of the practices, policies and laws that benefit some at the expense of others. Sadly, our community heros who kept us all safe, are some of the most undervalued, and most vulnerable citizens in our country. Our hope is that the pandemic we lead us to do better for them.
It is clear that as we emerge from this long health crisis, the economy will face an even longer economic crisis. Both the federal and provincial/territorial governments will be asked to come up with measures to get the economy back on its feet.
Interestingly, during the pandemic, nobody asked for less government or less taxation. Workers, students and businesses, all depended on governments to help us to survive the pandemic. Governments provided the necessary income support, wage protection, and other measures. They provided a much needed bridge that allowed the country to focus on keeping people healthy.
Now it’s time for unprecedented measures to get our nation back on its feet. Austerity agendas have failed the majority of us, and with predictions of high unemployment, the closing of businesses, and steep declines in gross domestic product (GDP), we will need to look to governments to take on the responsibility of investing and growing our economies.
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour believes that means investing in a strong public sector and quality public services. We already know that the private sector will not be able to invest what will be required to get our economy rolling again. Our governments must take the lessons learned from COVID-19, and invest in health care, long-term care, public and social infrastructure, reconstruction, transportation, and the environment. All of these services are important to growing the economy and supporting local businesses, communities and people.
History tells us it can be done. Government investment rebuilt economies after the Second World War. We have a great opportunity to address the gaps and inequities we have seen throughout this global pandemic.
We applauded our front line and essential worker heros. We can now finally put our money where our mouth is and improve our social safety net so that economic growth works for everyone, not just the wealthy.
We have a great opportunity to turn this country into one where the engine runs full steam ahead with investments 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 Phamacare Plan.
Much needed investments in education and training, publicly funded and operated childcare and early learning, better services for vulnerable populations and for the organizations that look after them, will pay dividends into the future.
Investments in public transportation will help thousands of people and will provide thousands of jobs.
Retrofitting homes and public buildings will create jobs and help our environment. Investments in green housing will help thousands of low-income Canadians get off the streets and into adequate housing. We have been struggling to get high-speed internet functioning across this country. It’s time to ensure everyone has access to the Internet regardless of income or geography.
If this pandemic has shown us anything it’s that we need to 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 change. 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 gaps; ever increasing rates of poverty and homelessness, increasing violence and inequality, poorly underfunded and inadequate public and community services.
Critical to our recovery will be to bring all stakeholders to the table, including business, labour, community and those voices who are traditionally left 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.
President, New Brunswick Federation of Labour