While Canadians enjoy new freedoms, govt's should look within: MEI

The MEI's new e-book.

While many of us are emerging from the COVID-19 lockdown and enjoying further freedoms, the Montreal Economic Institute think tank and four other organizations say governments should spend the post-pandemic era looking inward.

The MEI recently released its e-book Life After COVID: What’s next for Canada? The think tank says it is “vital that we ask ourselves how we can rebound and rebuild so that our systems are better able to respond, not only to future crises, but to Canadians’ day-to-day needs.” The MEI is “calling for a timely examination of our collective finances, health care systems, options for economic growth, and more.”

The other organizations involved in the e-book are the Canadian Constitution Foundation, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms and SecondStreet.org.

“While everyday Canadians will soon (hopefully) have a chance to rip off their masks and once again enjoy the freedoms many of us took for granted, it will be important for our elected officials to get down to business and begin reforming many government programs and procedures,” the book says.

Aaron Wudrick and Franco Terrazzano of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation recommended that:

• “The federal government must move swiftly to reduce costs by winding down emergency spending measures and then moving to impose additional spending discipline across the entire government.”

• “To boost the economy, rather than taking the failed approach of government-led stimulus spending, politicians should implement a suite of bold tax reduction measures designed to facilitate a private sector-led recovery by incentivizing immediate economic activity and helping businesses first survive and ultimately thrive.”

• “The government will have to put the brakes on spending.”

Krystle Wittevrongel, with the collaboration of Peter St. Onge, of the Montreal Economic Institute, made recommendations for health reform:

• “Activity-based funding matches funds to patients’ needs.... This incentivizes hospitals to do what they’re supposed to do: treat as many patients as they can....Patients become valued clients rather than costs to be cut.”

• “Making full use of existing resources by expanding the scope of practice of nurse practitioners and pharmacists could also lead to substantial savings.”

• “Although adopted as emergency measures, the current liberalization of telemedicine by the provinces should be maintained after COVID-19 so that Canadians can continue to have improved access to general practitioners and specialists without having to languish on waiting lists.”

• “Allowing private entrepreneurs to provide health care services covered by the universal system would increase the system’s capacity almost overnight. This would naturally be on terms that are acceptable to the Canadian public, meaning private sector provision with strict quality and pricing standards, combined with universal coverage of medically necessary care.”

“If there is a silver lining to the [COVID-19] crisis, we hope it might lead to permanent liberalization and reform of our health care system so that it can respond, not only to future crises, but to Canadians’ day-to-day needs, and provide them with the responsive, humane, and attentive care that they deserve,” the authors conclude.

Colin Craig, president of SecondStreet.org, proposed economic growth with less government.

• Governments [should] establish permanent committee structures that regularly review – and act on – red tape concerns that are raised by the public.”

• “If [the federal government] merely facilitated the tearing down of trade barriers within Canada, and if provincial governments made this issue a priority, governments could achieve even greater economic stimulus without costing taxpayers a cent.”

• Governments should tackle stalled natural resource and local projects.

“There are numerous ways that governments could stimulate our economy without spending taxpayers’ money,” Craig concluded. “All we need is for governments to make implementing the policy options a priority.”

Toronto Sun columnist Anthony Furey pointed out that more severe measures were taken compared to what a federal pre-pandemic report recommended in a scenario worse than what Canadians experienced in 2020-21. His recommendations for the next pandemic:

• “[Step back] from broad-based lockdowns and instead deal with the problems in a targeted fashion: identify and micro-target hotspots where the virus is actually spreading and support the hospital system to deal with any surge in patients, all while empowering people with the information needed to develop their own personal risk assessment to the virus and make life choices accordingly.”

• “Canada’s [original] pandemic preparedness plans are clearly superior to lockdowns in that they take a holistic look at society as opposed to singularly focusing on eliminating the virus at all costs.... The challenge is getting to a position where more Canadians are able to embrace this better way. It will require more accurate and honest reporting from the media, bravery from public health officials and leadership from politicians.”

“Honest reflection, commissions, independent reviews and broader accountability are needed now – and don’t be surprised if such reviews recommend a response that is more in line with what government officials had planned to do... before COVID-19 emerged,” Furey wrote. Other e-book authors included Jay Cameron of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms and Christine Van Geyn of the Canadian Constitution Foundation.

The e-book can be seen at www.iedm.org.

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