Opinion: Planning must begin today for our new coronavirus reality

We need to fundamentally change things to avoid a repeat in this, or another future emergency situation, writes Stephen Carter

The taproom at Annex Ale Project in Calgary's Barley Belt. We'll have to think about how to support small business moving forward. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

This piece is contributed by Stephen CarterPresident, Decide Campaigns

The impact of COVID-19 is being felt around the world and suddenly feels amplified here at home.

Already my local yoga studio has closed, ski areas are shuttered, we have cancelled our dog walkers, schools we have relied on are cancelled and the newly-opened offices in The Edison, home to startups and small businesses, are virtually empty.

Oh, and the stock market has crashed. Again.

It’s tough, amid a crisis, to envision our way out. But we must start to plan for our new reality immediately or we risk returning to a reality that’s broken beyond repair by a virus that has stormed the globe like no other since the Spanish Flu of 1918.

Prescription for the future

Unsolicited, here’s my advice to the elected leaders of the world, especially those in Edmonton and Ottawa. We can recover quickly from this crisis, but we must proceed down two paths simultaneously – a path of prevention and a path of recovery.

We must start with Universal Basic Income. What is Universal Basic Income? It is a payment made to every adult in Canada of $1,500 per month. Why would we pay it to everyone? Why not just those in need?

Start with the obvious: We must help those in need. But need takes many different forms in the world today. Need will include the entrepreneur who has shut the doors to her small business for three months to avoid spreading COVID-19. Need will include students who are living at home because they cannot find work. Need includes seniors who have been isolated.

Need should be defined broadly and with many different measures than those of simple income.

We need people to spend more. If you get a cheque for $1,500 this month and you don’t need it – spend it. Spend it locally. Buy a bike. Go to restaurants. And tip generously.

Your spending is an act of patriotism and civic investment.

‘This recession is local’

Investment in large business won’t work. This recession is local. While it’s huge economically, it is small in its stature. This recession isn’t about multinationals; it’s about local businesses that, when added together, have more economic clout than every multinational in the world.

We need to invest in local business to rebuild the base of our economy.

But how?

Property taxes are regressive and impede the growth and sustainability of local business. This year, they should be completely paid by the Government of Canada.

Employment taxes stand between business and more employees. The Federal Government should remove this barrier by offering a reprieve. No employment taxes for 18 months.

Income taxes? These taxes businesses should pay. We need to incentivize the reinvestment of corporate profit into business. Tax the profit to enable the investment.

And we need lots of investment. Start by building everything on local government wish lists. Right now, money for governments is practically free. Borrow big time. Let’s build transit. Build low-cost housing. High-speed rail. Build it all.

Every project should hire local companies. Those local companies must hire local employees. Those local employees need to spend their money locally. Real trickle-down economics.

Time to consider year-round education for all

We also need to rethink education. Year-round schooling is a great way to regain the lost weeks or months from our school year.

Year-round schooling gives us a chance to achieve two objectives: educate our children more effectively and efficiently while giving students their lost days back as fast as possible.

Shorter school breaks, more often, creates a better learning environment for students. We started the summers off schedule when we were an agrarian society, a society long since left in the past.

We have invested in ourselves, in infrastructure, in children. That’s a good start, but to recover from this pandemic-induced recession we will need to invest in our society. And the investment society requires is that of your time.

Your kids’ school, sports team, community groups, church, service group and local charity will all need your time. Your neighbours, tenants, colleagues, and friends all need your time. Start volunteering as soon as possible. Start hosting dinner parties as soon as possible. Bake some muffins and take them to your friends, family or even strangers.

I promise your time giving back, sharing with friends and rebuilding our society will be paid back tenfold.

Finally, let us not forget those who will have saved us from the primary threat of this nasty pandemic. Doctors, nurses and support staff will be the real heroes of this pandemic.

On behalf of citizens young and old, thank you.

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