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Planning for post-pandemic recovery

The Queen’s School of Policy Studies is laying out strategies for building a better society in the wake of COVID-19 in a series of white papers.

Photograph of Parliament building in Ottawa
The COVID-19 Working Groups have already published three white papers on ageing well, the future of work, and the future of governance after the pandemic. (Shutterstock.)

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have rippled across every aspect of society. To confront all this change and uncertainty, the Queen’s School of Policy Studies (SPS) brought together researchers from across the university to create several interdisciplinary COVID-19 working groups to explore the impact of the pandemic and ask how we might use it as an opportunity to reshape some parts of our world for the better. Each of the eight working groups focuses on a specific topic, including arts and culture, economics, and healthcare.

After beginning their work last spring, the working groups have begun sharing their findings through a series of white papers. Three white papers have already been published on the topics of “Ageing Well,” “The Future of Work Post-Pandemic,” and “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of Governance in Canada.” Significant media attention has already amplified findings from these papers, and additional publications are expected to follow from the other working groups.

“The COVID-19 Working Groups in the School of Policy Studies have given Queen’s the chance to contribute to the national dialogue on a range of pressing topics. We want to use our expertise to help Canada emerge from the pandemic with a plan for building a strong and sustainable future,” says Warren Mabee, Associate Dean and Director, SPS.

Ageing well and the future of work

Long-term care homes have been struck especially hard by the pandemic, which prompted the COVID-19 Health Policy Working Group to focus on Canada’s approach to ageing in its first white paper. “Ageing Well” broadens the perspective of the current crisis in long-term care to the forthcoming tsunami of older seniors and the critical issue of quality of life and what seniors wish.  Studies show that few want to go to long-term care, and they prefer to “age in place.” The working group suggests that Canada needs to make greater efforts to provide supports so seniors can remain in their home longer and to create a variety of other living arrangements based in the community. To accommodate the desire to live independently the white paper argues more needs to be done to prevent or at least alleviate chronic conditions such as dementia and frailty.

The pandemic has also created new urgency for planning for changes to work and the economy. Looking at issues such as labour trends, economic recovery, and income support, the COVID-19 Economic Policy Working Group explores potential long-term effects in “The Future of Work Post-Pandemic.” While some sectors of the economy may be able to return to a pre-pandemic normal, the working group shows that Canada must be prepared to address a changed economic landscape in the wake of COVID-19.

“Ageing and the economy are two of Canada’s most pressing issues. Canada will need to support the needs of 4.2 million additional seniors over the next 22 years and 82 per cent will be 75 or older.  It’s pertinent we think about the long-term implications of Canada’s next steps for seniors, and the associated costs,” says Don Drummond, Stauffer-Dunning Fellow in SPS and co-author of both white papers. “As for the economy, many worthy national initiatives under consideration would require further, massive government spending when government debts and deficits have already ballooned. These needs and desires will need to be balanced against the importance of avoiding the next crisis being fiscal.”

The future of governance

The third white paper focuses on the role of government in managing a national crisis such as this pandemic. In “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of Governance in Canada,” the COVID-19 Governance Working Group explores how the Canadian government can best lead the country out of the current situation. The white paper argues that government institutions function well for Canadians but will also need to be adapted for a successful recovery when the pandemic dies down. Some of the initial ideas of the working group appeared in a series of op-eds in The Ottawa Citizen and were featured in podcasts by the Institute on Governance; these ideas are refined in the final white paper

“At the heart of the paper is a recognition that governance – especially how we collectively make decisions and who is at the table – is central to the successful recovery of the country. This is an opportunity that we should not miss,” says Kathy Brock, Professor and Senior Fellow, SPS, and co-author of the white paper.

Read the white papers from the COVID-19 working groups on the SPS website. Additional publications from the working groups will be published on that website as they become available.