(1) Canada’s health and economic recovery policies for addressing COVID-19
In the span of a month, Canada, similar to many other countries, has had devastating economic impacts as it tackles COVID-19. Businesses are closed and workers must remain at home, many being unpaid or unsure their jobs will continue. On April 9, Prime Minister Trudeau stated “Canadians need to stay home and practice physical distancing for months as the first wave of this virus won’t end until the summer. After the first wave, some economic activity will start again. Canada is not expected to return to normal until there is a vaccine, possibly a year and a half away.”
First Ministers have reaffirmed their commitment to continued collaboration and coordination to address COVID-19. Provincial and territorial data sharing and other measures including physical distancing, quarantining, and self-isolation are essential to slow the spread of COVID-19, ensure the safety of essential workers, and the capacity of our health care system. Addressing the virus is a Team Canada effort. The well-being and safety of all Canadians are Canada’s top priorities.
Over the last month, banks have slashed rates and purchased securities while Ottawa rolls out subsidies to help small businesses protect jobs, pay their workers while at home and bills during these difficult times. Job loss or reduced hours has already reached 3 million. Billions of dollars have been directed to companies retooling, and innovating toward vital, made‑in‑Canada protective gear and medical equipment, diagnostic testing, research for vaccines and treatments, food banks/agencies, the homeless, families fleeing violence, and Indigenous communities. A COVID-19 Economic Response Plan of $107 billion includes a 75% wage subsidy for qualifying businesses, and Emergency Business Account to eligible financial institutions to provide interest-free loans to businesses in need. This amidst staggering unemployment claims being handled.
The process doesn’t account for issues related to climate change mitigation or adaptation. Job stability and resolution of a health crisis are Canada’s priorities. Fiscal steps underway are expected to help move the economy into a partial recovery in the summer, not traditional economic drivers such as supply and demand. The following considerations may have a significant impact on reducing fossil fuel use and transportation and can be introduced into policy actions. Frances Donald, chief economist with Manulife Investment Management says “It is unlikely businesses will think twice about establishing global supply chains. Instead, they’ll look closer to home, even if domestic suppliers are more costly, as insurance against future disruptions. Social distancing may also accelerate the work-from-home movement, as people adapt to technologies that let them work remotely. Likewise, many people have been exposed to online shopping for the first time. Our way of consuming things is going to change pretty radically.”
2) Vulnerabilities exposed by the virus in Canada’s ability to create climate change adaptation policies due to COVID-19. Ottawa insists Canada has a lot of fiscal room to deal with the virus, and economists agree; given federal debt-to-GDP is the lowest in the G7. Cooperation and costs are accepted as necessary, but any fiscal fallout is certain to open up other issues in the long term that could add stress to our economy. Municipalities are able to continue key infrastructures such as transit, waste collection, water/sewage treatment, electricity generation, natural gas distribution, road construction, and emergency services for those in need.
Vijay Kolinjivadimay, University of Antwerp, says: we may argue this pandemic is part of climate change, therefore, our response should not be limited to containing the spread of the virus. What we thought was “normal” before the pandemic was already a crisis, returning to it cannot be an option. Toronto Environmental Alliance reminds us that fossil fuel pollution will return to previous levels unless we take major steps to change that with well-resourced, equitable and adaptable public services, institutions, and civil society ‘watchdogs’ during any future crisis.
Impact of the coronavirus on Canada’s climate change efforts
*** Short-lived, temporary impact (positive)
Vijay reminds us the current response to COVID-19 could help usher in changes in lifestyles and work patterns that reduce consumption, less travel, reducing household waste, shorter workweeks, and more reliance on local supply chains – from a globalized to a more localized pattern.
To request action, please contact Minister Wilkinson, with the following message:
Please conduct an analysis of the virus’s impact on any climate change influences and with respect to further action educate the public on both the virus and links to any environmental impact positives or negatives in order to protect our natural resources. As well the most vulnerable members of society are at greatest risk so continue to support them. The collective choices we make now will shape the future trajectory of our society.
We recognize Ottawa asks for national coordination when steps are taken to ease restrictions and reopen the economy. We support this as being a vigilant approach to avoid virus re-occurrence.
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Mail: House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Tel: 1 613 995-1225
For more information, please email Climate Scorecard Canadian Country Manager: Diane Szoller at Canada@climatescorecard.org.