Ottawa Canal at night

This article appears in the May 2020 issue of Investment Executive. Subscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.

For a hint of how we’ll change once Covid-19 is finally over, looking back 100 years is a worthwhile exercise.

The great influenza pandemic contributed to the growth of the modern hospital. Pre-pandemic, many Canadian cities, including Ottawa, did not have a hospital as we know it. The now decrepit Ottawa Civic Hospital was hastily built in a drive led by the mayor because so many citizens were dying from the flu.

Watch for widespread change stemming from the current crisis as well.

Ontario and B.C. now permit doctors to do video assessments using newly developed medical apps this in a system that still depends on fax machines and has resisted electronic health records. Covid-19 will mean growth for digital health care, just as kids stuck at home are probably in the vanguard of growth of online learning.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information says that on average, hospitals in this country have 15% of their beds unavailable for admissions because those beds are occupied by dementia patients who should be in long-term care but are stuck on waiting lists.

This is why Canadian hospitals, struggling with ancient equipment, are routinely over capacity. Hallway medicine is the new normal, and hospital-borne infections are health hazards in their own right.

Once this pandemic is over, health care is going to become a government priority after decades of neglect. Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein once called health care the third-rail issue of politics. Now governments will have to open that Pandora’s box.

Expect a building boom in retirement homes and acceleration in development of digital hospitals.

On the financial side, when a government begins to measure its fiscal stimulus packages as a percentage of GDP, you know we won’t be seeing a balanced budget anytime soon. Interest rates have been cut to almost nothing, so Ottawa won’t be able to stimulate the economy with monetary policy.

And because most of the G7 countries have been stimulating their economies non-stop since the global financial crisis of 2008-09, expect free-spending fiscal policy long after Covid-19 has become history. Canadians may hate paying taxes, but they love government services.

As for globalization, its future has been debatable for almost a decade as populism gained traction, the administration of U.S. president Donald Trump embraced protectionism and the U.S. border has been increasingly difficult to cross.

Now Trump is pressuring the private sector to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. from China, especially pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. Buy American won’t be going away.

Whether Covid-19 will take globalization as a victim may be too early to predict, but certainly won’t advance the trend.

When this crisis is over and the Canada/ U.S. border reopens, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should seek negotiations of a customs treaty as a companion to the revised Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement to ensure Canadians and their exports can cross the border free of red tape.

Canada also needs new foreign policy. Trump’s effort to prevent medical supplies from being exported to Canada in early April ended more than a century of policy built on the assumption the U.S. is our trusted ally under Pax Americana. China cannot be trusted either.

The Covid-19 crisis also has changed how Canadians view their leadership. At the end of February, almost 60% of Canadians were dissatisfied with how Trudeau handled the Coastal GasLink pipeline blockades. By the second week of April, almost 75% approved of how he was handling the Covid-19 crisis.

If Trudeau can maintain this recovery in the polls with his daily press conferences and high visibility of his star ministers, the Liberals will begin thinking a government majority is within their grasp.

As Winston Churchill once said: Never let a good crisis go to waste. So be prepared for an election in 2021. With millions receiving emergency income support, universal basic income will be a major issue during the election campaign.