By Ken Coates, May 9. 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic has tested governments in Canada. Like all major crises, the pandemic exposed the weaknesses and the strengths of governments. Canadians now wonder how much they can count on their governments to deliver services effectively, reliably and responsibly.
Early in the pandemic, Canadians saw governments rush to protect individuals and businesses from financial ruin, roll out effective lockdowns and institute travel restrictions. But we also saw governments and private sector providers fail to protect the residents of seniors’ homes. On balance, however, the nation had confidence in governments at all levels.
But as time passed, major cracks appeared: inconsistent COVID-19 policies across the country, serious problems with hospital management, divisive debates about vaccine mandates, quixotic border management, government-by-fiat in lieu of normal democratic processes and the running of massive deficits, particularly by the federal government. By early 2022, with tensions exacerbated by the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa, public dissatisfaction with pandemic management and frustration with government peaked.
The launching of a national childcare program and a limited national dental program has raised questions about the federal government’s ability to deliver on its promises and commitments. And the Liberals continue to raise the stakes. They now want to manage Canada out of the climate crisis, largely by dismantling the oil and gas industry and undertaking a rapid transition to renewable energy. They promise a “just transition” for displaced energy workers.
Given how Europe’s mismanagement of this transition has caused intense hardship, Canadians are right to be nervous about Ottawa’s ability to get it right.
Canada is well-served by its civil service. For decades, Canada has had one of the world’s top-ranked civil services. The International Civil Service Effectiveness Index, produced by the University of Oxford, ranked Canada No. 1 in 2017 and third place in 2019. This is impressive.