Canada is on a war footing. The enemy this time is a virus, but many of the impacts on the country are the same as those in a country facing attack by a foreign military.
We are being asked to remain home. Increasingly, Americans are being asked to “shelter in place”, an especially bracing phrase. All but essential travel to the US is banned. The same applies to Americans coming to Canada. Irregular migrants are now being turned back at the border. There are shortages at grocery stores though almost all of these seem to be temporary. Ottawa is even pressing manufacturers into service to provide medical supplies. Seniors of an age will recall similar measures from World War II. Then, instead of being told that we should practice social distancing Canadians were told to “Eat your vegetables for the Queen”.
Many in the private sector are stepping up to offer support directly to consumers, and in other cases to the government, offering to shift manufacturing according to government priorities. Those are important ways of helping. The other way is to very clearly explain to the government what needs to be done to keep workers employed in the short and medium term.
In a twist on the old joke, governments really are ‘here to help’ but they need detailed and practical suggestions on how to do that. They need to understand who your workforce is and how vulnerable they are. In some cases, workers provide service and products that are close to essential even if they’re not normally regarded as an essential service. That needs to be spelled out plainly to government officials and legislators. Governments need ideas that can be implemented in the days and weeks ahead and they need to understand the impact that government help will have.