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The “Great Resignation”: A wake up call for corporate Canada

Unusually high employee turnover, reservations about returning to the office and lack of engagement are all familiar pain points for employers and people managers across the country. Any one of these issues can be written off as temporary, but employers should not look away from the alarming reality that millions of Canadian workers are unhappy.

A recent study by Navigator’s Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation reveals that a full 42 per cent of employees are considering a job change in the next year. This desire for change is in part fuelled by views that their employers are more focused on profits than people, as well as concerns about work-life balance, flexibility and inclusivity. As the pandemic drags on, all of these views revolve around an underlying drop in employee morale that will outlast the latest round of restrictions.

If we accept that talent is the most important asset of a business, then employee morale needs to be elevated as an issue requiring C-suite attention, focused resources, and an empowered team to make tangible improvements. Addressing this challenge head on is central to an organization’s ability to retain talent, improve productivity, and bolster its recruitment.

Mental health has for years been an issue that employers have been reluctant to shake the tree on. Today, they have no choice.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, nearly 75 per cent of the population are facing increased mental health and substance challenges. The isolation, anxiety and confusion that so many have felt in the past two years has cast a new light on the diverse and complex mental health needs of Canadians.  No longer just a problem that people are grappling with behind closed doors, this is an occupational safety issue.

A Morneau Shepell (now LifeWorks) survey on mental health found that working Canadians were significantly more distressed than they had been pre-pandemic, citing increased mental stress and strain at work as the top factor that would motivate a job change. According to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the cost of mental health to the Canadian economy is over $50 billion annually, or nearly $1,500, per employee.

It may feel crass to discuss mental health in dollars and cents, but the conclusion is unavoidable: inaction has a cost.

Many Canadian employers already take this challenge seriously. We have seen an increase in flexible hours, meeting-free days, and strengthened benefit plans. Experts in the private, public, and not-for-profit sector have all compiled best practices guides for employers looking to improve in these areas.

Yet, for many companies, the problem persists. Like most societal challenges, the mental health crisis has been years in the making. It stands to reason that it will take years of hard work, strategic thinking, and humility for employers to emerge as leading the solution, and even longer for them to reap the cost benefits.

As employers undertaking this journey, it’s important to maintain the basic fundamentals of management and leadership. Having a plan beats no plan. What gets measured gets done. And the best way to build trust is through authentic and frequent communication.

Resilient, creative, businesses will find ways to adapt to the changing needs of their employees. This aspiration starts with an understanding of where their responsibility lies and an acknowledgement that exponential improvements are required to address a problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

If corporate Canada hopes to reverse the massive increase in employee turnover, it must embrace change. Its future, and the future of Canadian workers, depends on it.

Accelerating Thinkers

If necessity is the mother of invention, it stands to reason that the past two years have been fertile ground for innovative thinkers stepping up to make leaps forward in their communities, organizations or sectors that may have otherwise taken years. Perhaps as importantly, it’s the local, personal, seemingly small changes that are making the biggest impact.

We spoke to a group of “accelerating thinkers” who have done exactly that, to get to the bottom of what has motivated and inspired them, as well as the ingredients that have been key to their continued success. While their stories are diverse, we found a common theme around two basic human needs: collaboration and connectivity.

Accelerators Section


Dan Mangan

Current role: Musician and Co-Founder of Side Door

Based in: Vancouver

Canadian startup Side Door was founded in 2017 to connect aspiring musical artists who tour with hosts of small or niche concert venues, such as living rooms, backyards and bookstores.

Of course, the pandemic completely shut down concerts across the world. Dan Mangan and co-founder Laura Simpson acted quickly and pivoted to launch an online community to serve a similar purpose: to foster an environment where artists at any level can get paid and reach their fans and new listeners.

In 2020 Side Door went from being an in-person-only platform to helping facilitate 900 shows online. As a result, the organization’s user base grew to more than 65,000 users, including 5,000 artists and 2,000 available spaces.

The music industry has operated using a somewhat archaic model that was laid bare during the pandemic. Dan is trying to change that. He envisions a world where shows can be booked rapidly (within days) between strangers. His goal is to make live entertainment more democratic, more accessible and more independent, so that a community of 100,000 artists have the potential to earn $100,000 a year through their music, whether or not they are famous.

Having a less centralized music model that matches people — anyone, anywhere — with the music they want creates accessibility and a sense of connectivity.




Jonathan Metcalfe

Current role: Restaurateur / Managing Partner / Co-Owner Tuck Shop

Based in: Montreal

It’s no secret the pandemic hit the restaurant business among the hardest of all industries. Restaurateurs everywhere were forced to re-evaluate their business models and look to innovate as they welcomed back patrons.

As owner of a neighbourhood eatery and bar, Jonathan Metcalfe had a myriad of challenges to tackle. With a dedicated team of highly skilled individuals passionate about their jobs, maintaining connectivity and creating loyalty became a central task.

Jonathan, who got into exercise following surgery in 2019, proposed that his team begin working out together to keep up their mental and physical health. This routine is now an integral part of the restaurant’s culture, both in and out of the workplace. He says they have grown closer by pushing each other in a non-work environment and have found satisfaction seeing each other make progress over months. Further, staff self-confidence is through the roof, which translates to a better client experience and higher sales.

Jonathan also used the pandemic as a jumping-off point to revisit pay inequality and work-life balance for his staff. That meant addressing tip structures and consolidating operating hours over four days rather than five to ensure staff have time to refresh and spend time with loved ones. Four-day work weeks are being explored by businesses and not-for-profits across Canada and were recently championed by the Ontario Liberal Party as a pilot project worth launching on a larger scale.

With the industry continuing to face labour shortfalls, finding new ways to address the physical and emotional demands of the sector have been essential to Jonathan’s success. It’s an approach restaurateurs across Canada would be wise to watch closely.



Ana Serrano

Current role: President and Vice-Chancellor of OCAD University

Based in: Toronto

Ana Serrano was set to begin her role with OCAD in July 2020, but the pandemic had other demands. Her start date was fast-tracked to help think through how the university would respond to the pandemic, deliver what would be a mostly online educational experience, and position some of the most tactile programs to succeed in a virtual world.

During the pandemic, Ana was also focused on the mental health of the university’s students. She understood that isolation and lack of physical proximity to the OCAD U community would affect them adversely. To facilitate this need for belonging, in September 2020 she led the creation of a 24/7 digital streaming service called OCAD U Live, created for students by students, as a place where they could connect, create and express themselves while augmenting their digitally forward skills as members of the new “creator economy.”

Along with these efforts at building meaningful experiences during an unprecedented time of isolation, Ana was also focused on keeping the university on the path toward financial sustainability. This goal became a shared purpose for all members of the OCAD U community, further creating a sense of connection among this disparate group of stakeholders, from the board to the students.



Anila Lee Yuen

Current role: President and Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Newcomers

Based in: Calgary

As CEO of a not-for-profit charitable organization that provides Calgary immigrants and economically disadvantaged individuals with a solid foothold in Canada, helping others is par for the course for Anila Lee Yuen.

When Calgary, particularly Northeast Calgary, was hit hard by COVID-19, she led the organization to work collaboratively with the government and partner organizations — through the Calgary East Zone Newcomers Collaborative — to not only help the most vulnerable Calgarians get through the pandemic but also to lower the COVID infection rates in the city.

As part of these efforts, Anila, with Calgary Local Immigration Partnership (CLIP), led the setup of a multilingual crisis phone line to ensure everyone could receive the care and support they needed in the language they prefer. This meant anything from sourcing laptops for people so they could safely work from home or providing food hampers to help families avoid going to grocery stores during the lockdown.

From December to June 2020, they were able to help 20,000 Calgarians with COVID-related crisis needs. Jurisdictions like Edmonton, Red Deer, Alta., and Toronto have explored similar models.



Matthew Lombardi

Current role: Managing Director of OneEleven

Based in: Toronto

After closing at the beginning of the pandemic in spring 2020, OneEleven, a Canadian technology startup, brought on Matthew Lombardi to help rebuild the Toronto incubator.

Its 55,000-square-foot facility was a key part of its business model and was meant to be used as a venue for events and for open-concept seating and private offices as workspaces for growing technology companies.

With physical meetings out of the question, Matthew found a new way to help OneEleven’s community of fast-growing companies in the sector. He saw a gap in talent at these companies that hired a swath of individual contributors who, after rapid growth of their teams, had to become people managers with little leadership training. OneEleven’s online upskilling program is targeted directly at those emerging leaders.

Matthew sees Toronto as growing tech companies differently and believes we will see a tech-driven recovery in Canada post-pandemic. Looking ahead, OneEleven will combine both models, its new programming offerings and its collision spaces, to best support this rapidly scaling community of organizations.

It’s clear that businesses need to be thinking about ways to connect with their customers and also with their future leaders, both physically and virtually.



Tabatha Bull

Current role: President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

Based in: Toronto

Tabatha Bull’s first day as CEO was on March 13, 2020, mere days before the country moved to working from home. Not only did Tabatha have to grapple with a new role but the strategic plan she had laid out had to change completely.

The CCAB acted quickly to survey its Indigenous business owner members to see what they needed to survive the pandemic. Working with government and banks, they began recovery programs and launched emergency business services.

The pivot was a success; their membership grew from just over 950 members in 2020 to 1,650 members in 2021, along with new interest from the tech sector.

Using this momentum, Bull focused her efforts to promote, strengthen, and enhance a prosperous Indigenous economy through the fostering of business relationships, opportunities, training, advocacy, and awareness.

Tabatha noted the remarkable way that distressed Indigenous businesses still focused on trying to help their communities, exemplifying the potential for Canadians to rally around common goals and think bigger beyond the pandemic.





Canada’s Climate Consensus


In Canada’s 44th election, a remarkable thing happened: all four major parties agreed that Canada must substantially cut its emissions over the next decade. Make no mistake, given that Canada is the world’s fifth-largest energy producer, this development was, in fact, remarkable.

As Erin O’Toole battles to remain leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, he must now convince members that his relatively progressive stance on climate was the right one, a tough sell given his party’s underwhelming electoral performance and the rise of the People’s Party of Canada. Simultaneously, Canadians and Canadian businesses continue to bear the brunt of extreme weather events, a burden that will only become heavier as climate change accelerates.

Of course, it is not a matter of if climate change accelerates. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that the climate will continue to warm for at least the next 30 years, and that changes to the oceans, ice coverage and global sea levels are for the most part irreversible for hundreds and potentially thousands of years.

This bleak situation is not lost on us. According to a Navigator survey, two-thirds of Canadians consider climate change to be the most serious issue facing the country. In turn, corporations are feeling the heat from consumers, often driven by their younger employees, customers and institutional investors.

Rich Lesser, global chair of Boston Consulting Group (BCG), observed that many CEOs were initially shielded from this trend due to “bubble” thinking where younger employees explicitly or implicitly received the message that their perspectives were unwelcome. However, BCG, like many others, saw its bubble burst over the past two years when COVID-19 forced a rethink of working models and climate risk.

BCG is not alone as businesses around the world are more directly contemplating the economic implications of wildfires, droughts, extreme weather, crop yield declines, water shortages and climate-induced forced migration. John Sterman, professor of management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, states that the most effective way for companies to protect their supply chains against these risks is to “find ways to cut your emissions that also improve your resilience and generate other benefits for you.” For instance, during the deep freeze in Texas last year, Credit Human’s new headquarters was fully operational while many others were not. That’s because the building was highly energy efficient and built with a massive solar array on the roof along with ground source heat pumps.

In Canada, a change in thinking from big business has been met by a similar shift from regulators and central bankers. In 2020, the Bank of Canada and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) announced plans for a pilot project that would improve Canadians’ ability to assess financial risk related to climate change. Based on the high level of credit exposure identified in the report and the need for improved national data, OSFI is now warning that financial institutions that cannot be trusted to adequately adjust for climate risk may be forced to keep more capital in their rainy- day funds.

Growing awareness and improved analysis of climate risk come with direct implications for Canada’s largest export and largest emitter, the oil and gas sector. As customer demand for these resources remains robust, the sector must markedly reduce the intensity of its emissions.

It’s a challenge that an alliance of Canada’s five largest oil sands producers has committed to taking on directly, working in collaboration with provincial and federal governments to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands by 2050.

This pledge, met by escalating federal climate policy that will cap oil and gas emissions at their current level, demonstrates a rare consensus point between Canadian government and industry. For this pledge to hold weight among the Canadian public, producers must now undergo the difficult work of making it a reality. While the road ahead will no doubt be challenging, this same spirit of collaboration, combined with a sustained focus on the evolving needs of consumers and businesses, could finally position the country to face the seemingly daunting task ahead.

In many ways, this is the easy part. Canada’s decarbonization journey requires a combination of willpower, innovation and adaptability from all stakeholders that must transcend electoral cycles or quarter-bound pressures.

However, by finally agreeing upon a common goal, businesses and governments are positioned to move quickly and co-operatively. It could not have come a moment too soon.

To maintain momentum on EDI work, discomfort should be your north star

The past two years have been rife with necessary and uncomfortable conversations about race, class, values, gender and so much more. In business, some people have shied away from engaging, while others have jumped into these discussions, to their great advantage.

In many ways, the success of a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion can be measured by the level of discomfort in board rooms and across the C-suite.

Uncertainty on faces around the senior leadership table. Deep breaths taken in reaction to the challenge of upending “business as usual.” The twitch on a colleague’s face that only appears when one’s deeply held sense of what is orderly has been threatened.

These are the hallmarks of an organization on a productive path to meaningfully improving equity, diversity and inclusion across its workplace. As is the case with business growth, satisfaction is an impediment to progress in the context of diversity and inclusion. Discomfort is how you know you are on the right path.

Business success is traditionally seen through the lens of successfully meeting targets, driving market share and revenue growth. EDI can be measured in the same way, but, unlike revenue growth, EDI efforts take time and may not be immediately reflected in quarterly results. That means two things: traditional indicators of success are not enough, and EDI must be understood as a long-term strategic bet — a unique facet of corporate strategy, one that can provide enormous, if not immediate, advantage.

How does a company consistently embrace discomfort and sustain efforts aimed at EDI when there may not be any quick, bottom-line payback?

The answer lies in a marriage of effective strategy and governance.

  1. It starts at the top. Board chairs and CEOs must create an environment of psychological safety where difficult and “wicked” questions can be asked and answered. How has the company benefited from colonialism? How does the current revenue model rely on equity gaps? Where does the company’s narrative about itself diverge from the realities of how people are hired and promoted within the organization?


Members of these tables who are not white, straight and male must be able to share their experiences that challenge a company’s record — and do so without being met with counterarguments, explanations or apologies. Sometimes, an outside facilitator is needed to keep the discussion moving and honest.


  1. Don’t guess. Data and research play a crucial role. A company’s workforce, supplier and customer census data need to be a part of the conversation to ensure the realities of the current situation are properly understood.


It can also be productive to bring in speakers to share experiences and perspectives that are otherwise unrepresented. For example, few companies have many people with disabilities in the ranks of their senior leadership teams or among their directors, yet 22 per cent of Canada’s population aged 15 and over identify as having a disability. The actual number is believed to be even higher. Is your company serving this population well and are you learning from their customer and employment experiences? Do you even know?


Beyond simply being an input for strategic planning, this data is a means to address immediate gaps in the diversity of C-suite perspectives compared to those of customers, employees and other stakeholders. Though not as effective as hearing from a diverse and fully inclusive team, having research data that reflects these otherwise missing experiences, and measuring the equity gaps from all levels of an organization, can inform meaningful targets and adequate plans to meet them.


  1. Write it down. Success of any kind is never achieved without sound strategy reflected in a written plan. The same holds true when it comes to improving diversity and inclusion. Stand-alone pledges and commitments made in the moment typically lack good grounding in corporate strategy, as well as the necessary resources. It is the deep roots of diversity and inclusion reflected in the company’s strategic plan that bear fruit.


Whether in the middle of a multi-year plan or at the outset of a strategic planning cycle, diversity and inclusion must be embedded in the company’s core success strategies, whether the pillar is focused on growth, quality or resilience. A strategic plan will only be revisited or include diversity targets with determined leadership. After nearly two years of hard pivots demanded by a public health emergency, companies have the bandwidth and know-how to accommodate new demands placed on performance, with strong leadership at the helm.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that there is no uniform experience of anything. Even a virus with no understanding of human differences impacts people dissimilarly. The pandemic has also revealed that the best disaster planning begins and ends with building up an organization’s resilience. Preparedness informed by our experience with SARS in 2002 only went so far in 2021. The climate events of today are not predictors of the climate events of tomorrow. And it’s impossible to predict what other high-consequence, low-probability black swan event may swim our way.

Ultimately, businesses that choose to pursue meaningful progress on EDI and are deliberate about it are the ones that will succeed. If a business is going to serve the largest consumer base possible, attract the best talent, minimize its burden on society and the planet, and succeed in the face of dynamic and unpredictable threats, it will only do so with the widest range of perspectives available to it.

We find ourselves in a moment where our businesses require an all-hands-on-deck approach to EDI and where far too many vital perspectives are still excluded. Yet the leaders of many organizations opt for the path of least resistance, shrinking away from discomfort in the belief that difficult conversations are an unfortunate byproduct, rather than a marker of progress, on EDI. These leaders are missing the point.

The enormity of this challenge and its disruptiveness should make you feel uncomfortable. It’s an indication you fully appreciate the extent of the changes required and the opportunities that lie ahead.

Keep your pride in progress close but keep your feelings of discomfort closer.


The Harvey Interview – A Conversation with David Naylor, Co-Chair of Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force

I initially reached out to Dr. David Naylor, co-chair of Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force and professor and former dean of medicine at the University of Toronto, to talk about Canada’s COVID-19 response.

The conversation we ended up having was far more fluid, touching on an expansive range of subjects, from recent changes to our society, our economy, and our health-care system, to the lessons learned from previous national crises. It was an opportunity for us both to reflect and think positively about the future, while contemplating growing concerns that loom large, such as inequity, polarization, and an increasingly competitive global landscape.

Dr. Naylor brings a sober perspective on the challenges that lie ahead, as well as optimism about Canada’s potential to use this inflection point for the better. I hope you will enjoy the following sections from our conversation in December, which has been edited for length and clarity.


Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the changes we have seen in Canada are striking. As an insider to government’s response, what have you seen and what do you think it means for the future?

The epidemic has been a personal transformative experience for huge numbers of people. It’s surprising when you speak with individuals, how they reset in personal ways, how they reset their relationships with family and how they reset their view of their external social relationships. You also get the continuing psychology of fear, fear of infection, fear of not only death, but long-term symptomatology from COVID. And all that underpinning of anxiety that besets people is like a trepidation about the social sphere.

Oddly, a fair number of people, instead of a risk-averse response, are now picking up new things that challenge and stretch them in different ways. Almost as if the constraints on normalcy liberated them. People travelling more in the region, looking for space that’s green and clean, where they can be outdoors, movement away from big cities to rural areas. All these changes are byproducts of the individual, family unit or community responses to unprecedented social stress.


What do you think it has meant for our thinking and our relationship with science?

This is a period when science has shone and when public faith in the importance of investing in science, investing in research, building strong public health and healthcare systems, has been heavily reinforced. It has also changed our relationship with science in a variety of ways that are surprisingly personal. There’s a real appreciation of the extraordinary breakthroughs that have led to rapid access to effective vaccines on a scale we’ve never seen before. Of course, it also means there’s a group that has always been hesitant about vaccines or about medicine. There’s been a polarization because of the fact that we have had mass intervention. Not only one that’s been encouraged, but one that is being mandated.


While that polarization is clearly evident, we have also seen cooperation between all levels of government, and worldwide cooperation when it came to the sharing of knowledge and information. How do you see leaders balancing those two things?

That’s a challenge that will only be met if the winning conditions are set in advance for collaboration. There was indeed global collaboration on clinical trials and on sharing immunological information. The fact that the genome sequence of the virus was shared so quickly by Chinese scientists, despite attempts by Chinese authorities to downplay the SARS-CoV-2 threat initially, is another example of that ethos of sharing scientific evidence.

But we’re still struggling with callbacks to gain traction to get large swaths of the world’s population even a first dose of a vaccine. A really interesting challenge is finding ways to create a situation where the local and global or at least multilateral institutions become intertwined positively. Frankly, Donald Trump’s sort of nativist presidency, in terms of setting a tone, reinforced a lot of the worst instincts of many countries in the OECD. We did pretty well, considering that powerful counterforce, the world’s most influential nation.


What do we need to do better as a country?

We’re now paying a massive premium to bring mRNA vaccines back to Canada. This is a story that recurs time and again with discoveries made in Canada. Problem is that we assume that the only thing we need to do is focus on the development and commercialization and we do not recognize that we have to be competitive in generating the ideas and discoveries that will feed that whole pipeline and keep it flowing. Other countries have gotten very good at taking Canadian discoveries and capitalizing on them, we want a world where Canada is very good at taking other people’s discoveries and capitalizing on them, as well as making the highest and best use of our own discoveries.

Let me focus on one topic, however, that is often overlooked. We’re now paying billions of dollars to deliver M-RNA COVID-19 vaccines to millions of Canadians. Much of the core technology underpinning those vaccines was actually developed in Canada. This is a story that recurs time and again with discoveries made here. We need to get much better at development and commercialization of discoveries, even as we remain competitive in generating the ideas and discoveries that will feed the pipeline of innovation and keep new products and services flowing. Other countries have become very adept at taking Canadian discoveries and capitalizing on them. We want a world where Canada is very good at assimilating international discoveries and capitalizing on them, as well as making the highest and best use of an ever-growing number of our own discoveries and ideas.


Is our challenge, in part, that we’re not very good at looking and thinking long term?

This is a challenge with democracy. Individuals who run governments are asked to reapply for their jobs every few years, and we have the opportunity to turn down their applications and find another set of people to govern. That’s a blessing in most cases.

It does, however, create a horizon problem by its very nature. The pandemic is provoking that same type of defensive response. It has been exacerbated because some of our provincial juniors have been less than assiduous in following science advice, with tragic consequences, unfortunately.

Many of the problems facing the planet instead require a big vision, a long-term view, multilateral collaboration, and a different way of doing business involving the public and private sectors. Retreating into a shell is understandable given what we’ve faced with the pandemic, but it’s exactly the wrong response.


While we aspire to plan for the long term, the threat of omicron is immediate. what are the implications?

Omicron is a big problem on two fronts. It can infect a substantial proportion of people who’ve had two COVID-19 shots or a previous COVID-19 infection. And it has genetic mutations that enable much faster spread.

Omicron appears less virulent than Delta but even if on average it’s milder, the spread is so fast that the numbers of those severely ill might still overrun ICU capacity with many deaths and health-care disruptions. other seasonal respiratory viruses. To ice that victory, we need a huge push to vaccinate the world. And thereafter, I expect we’ll need COVID-19 shots every year or two just as happens with flu.


The push to vaccinate the world is a difficult one for political leaders, who only face electoral consequences from local voters. what role should canada be playing?

Canada needs to share some of the supplies of vaccines for which we have advance purchase agreements, or provide more funds to support global COVID-19 vaccine delivery, or some combination of both strategies. One way or another, Canada should make generous commitments to help ensure the whole world is immunized against SARS-CoV-2, not just — as the WHO argues — to prevent the emergence of more mutations, but motivated by basic decency and a sense of our shared humanity.


In what ways do you think covid-19 changed the way we think about public health?

I expect we will see the federal and provincial governments make
major investments in pandemic preparedness. As for the general public, I would not be surprised to see ongoing behaviours that are commonplace in Asia. People in flu or cold season wearing masks in public places much of the time, and masking up even in summer when in closed spaces like a subway car. While I do think SARS-CoV-2 will recede with intermittent outbreaks and seasonal flares like other respiratory viruses, I’m also hoping for a permanent reset of our attitudes towards issues like the social determinants of health.


Over the last year, we’ve spoken much more holistically about the impact of lockdowns on mental health, about negative health outcomes that come from income insecurity. we’ve talked about basic income, universal child care, workplace protections. as the pandemic recedes, do you think our focus on “being in this together” will last?

As I mentioned, I would like to think that we’ve had a hard lesson on the social determinants of health. This has been an acute example of the extent to which income inequality, homelessness, job sites and being racialized have all come into play as factors that have been associated with an inequitable or differential burden of disease and adverse outcomes.

Some of those lessons are likely to be enduring in their impact. I really hope some of them are when it comes to combating systemic racism and when it comes to thinking about the social determinants in a more holistic way.

But I would caution that a lot of this is being magnified by the pandemic. We’ve had big experiments.

People say, well, SARS was small. And this is the big one that we’ve all read about for decades in the public health sphere. And that’s true. But remember, after each of the world wars, there was a similar flowering of socially directed policy-making. It lasted a few years and it faded.

While I do feel encouraged by a lot of what’s happened in the way of debate, discussion and policy discourse, and I think some of it will stick, I would say, realistically, people will slip back into their old ways of thinking and acting over time. I simply hope that some of the constructive and progressive things we have learned from the pandemic are baked in.


How do we avoid slipping back into old ways of thinking when some of the reflections of the past two years have transformed the way we think about social policy and social good?

Programming and consideration around combating systemic racism need to be sustained for many years to begin to have an impact. And if we can make sure that none of this is treated as short-term values, we will be well served. This gets back to the horizons problem, which requires that these issues be treated not as partisan chips to be played at the electoral table, but rather as part of a shift in the ethos of the country that is embraced by all parties, just as universal health care was decades ago.


You have been at the centre of so much advanced thinking in this country, whether it was SARS or Covid, and through your medical and scientific work. what has been most interesting about this work?

It’s been interesting to see how often Canada has been in a position to do things that were globally transformative and somehow looked away at the wrong moment. That’s been true when you examine issues and health policy and social policy, when you think about innovation more generally. We still have one of the lowest private sector expenditure levels on R&D.

We’re fortunate because we have abundant natural resources. Above all, we have abundant human resources because we have managed to be open to immigration when we scoop spectacular talent from across the world.

So much of what has lifted the country is trying to be open and inclusive, and maintain a multicultural society. We have work to do with Indigenous reconciliation. We have work to do in combating systemic racism. We had the classic Canadian response where we felt we were morally superior to the U.S. because we didn’t collect race- based data on many social and health issues, which is willful blindness.

Look at the data. Yes, we look better than our neighbour to the south. But we have a huge amount to do. My generation watched opportunities slip by for the country to be even better than it is. Nonetheless, look around the world right now. For all the frustrations of being a Canadian, it’s hard to imagine a better place to be.