Media reports say climate change mitigation will play a prominent role in the COVID-19 economic recovery, with the federal government planning to invest in the environment as part of its stimulus spending. Stimulus is a concept associated with John Maynard Keynes, calling for public spending to kick-start the economy. Stimulus was used after the 2008 global financial crisis, but was quickly removed, and the global economy never fully recovered.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many restrictions have been placed on fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In response, serious warnings have rightfully emerged regarding the necessity of safeguarding these freedoms and ensuring that they are restored when the pandemic – and the resulting medical emergency – abates. One must hope that we will be vigilant in preserving the individual rights and freedoms safeguarded by the Canadian Charter, called “first generation” rights, such as the freedom of association. However, we could also consider that this historic moment may provide an opportunity to advance what are often termed “second generation” rights, or economic and social rights.
In the early 1960’s, a CCF government (the CCF was the precursor to the NDP) in Saskatchewan successfully lit the path towards what we now know nationally as Medicare, a transformative event in Canadian history. This was done in the face of fierce and often bitter resistance from political opponents, from the medical community and from private insurance companies. Canadians would do well to recall this history, and how elements of it might inform the current debate about the urgent need for a universal single-payer (i.e. public) Pharmacare program, a long overdue supplement to the existing health care system that would realize the dreams of many of Medicare’s founders.