Whether it was Winston Churchill, Rahm Emanuel, or Mark Twain who actually said it, the concept of “never wanting a serious crisis to go to waste” has been used as a rallying call many times over the past weeks and months.
Companies have used it to digitize processes, reduce meals & travel expenses, develop new partnerships, and eliminate unnecessary meetings. Households have used it to restrict debt accumulation, eliminate frivolous expenses, reconnect with family, and rethink the importance of things like seasons tickets.
The question is, how should government not waste a good crisis?
Currently, much of the collective effort is on health & safety policies, building closures, travel bans, boarder controls, quarantine processes, unemployment support, and now the securing masks and other PPE supply chains. These are all essential provisions in times of crisis as they focus on the safety of citizens, essential services and economic life support – all with immediate, short-term benefits. Like riding a bike and looking down to dodge rocks and cracks and bumps, it takes tremendous effort and oversteering to just keep upright. It feels like you are moving forward, but really you are just trying to keep peddling.
But what if we lifted our eyes, looked to the horizon, and took a 20-year or 50-year nation-building view and asked “How can Canada come out of this as one of the strongest, most united, and most respected nations in the world?”
As the curve starts to bend and the pandemic becomes more predictable, this horizon should become the new narrative of our political leaders. Wouldn’t it be inspiring if we tuned in to a media session and heard the following:
- Our interprovincial boarders and policies prevent us from becoming an efficient and united country – and these will need to change as we recover from this crisis.
- We have greatly depleted our manufacturing capacity of essential goods and services across the country – and this will need to be rebuilt as we recover.
- Our regulatory environment and lack of competition in critical infrastructure (roads, railways, pipelines, telecom, ports, airlines) has prevented capital investment – and this will need to change as we recover from this crisis.
- Our dual language laws prevent cohesion amongst a multi-lingual nation – and this will need to change as we recover from this crisis.
- Our federal bureaucracy is not representative of Canada’s diverse geography – and this will need to change as we recover from this crisis.
- Our relationship with the United States needs to be coordinated on continental energy, food, fibre, water, and essential manufacturing policies – and these will need to be embraced as we recover from this crisis.
- Our corporate tax structures need to promote reinvestment in private sector jobs and goods-producing sectors of the economy – and this will need to be supported as we recover from this crisis.
- Our duplication of services between provinces and among municipalities has increased the cost of government beyond our affordability – and this will need to change as we recover from this crisis.
- Our essential services industries (including health, education, EMS, manufacturing, and public service) need to embrace digital, robotic, and artificial intelligence forms of innovation – and this will need to change as we recover from this crisis.
- Our industries need to align to the Canadian brand of technology, environmental and human rights leadership, but also have full access to tide water to build the long-term strength of our economy – and this will need to be championed as we recover from this crisis.
- Our Canadian brand is appreciated around the globe but under-developed within our own country – and this will need to change as we recover from this crisis.
If we take a 20-year or 50-year view and use this crisis as an opportunity to break down the barriers that keep us from being efficient and united, and get our people working on long-term solutions and positioning while they are unable to contribute fully to the economy, then maybe we can emerge as that strong nation with a positive mindset, a renewed constitution, and a collective vision.
Churchill was a great orator. His speeches addressed the brutal facts of reality. But they also allowed people to always peak around the corner and see a path forward. A light. A call to action. A national responsibility.
Let’s not waste a serious crisis.