The end of another year is here, and I know I’m not alone in saying “Good Riddance 2020”. This has been a year unlike any other that we’ve lived in generations. We’ve had nine months of a global pandemic that has infected 82 million and killed close to 2 million worldwide. In Canada we’ve had close to 600,00 cases and we’ve lost over 15,000. That number of deaths from COVID-19 in less than a year compares to the average 13,400 Canadians per year we lost during World War I, the 7,600 per year we lost in World War II and the 1,000 per year we lose to the flu.
Aside from the health effects of COVID-19, we’ve seen the economic pain brought to so many, as governments have tried to respond to the public health crisis. Thousands have lost their jobs, had to shutter their small businesses or have been put on the edge of bankruptcy and homelessness. It’s been a terrible year for so many reasons, so it’s understandable that we’re all eager to see the end of it. 2021 surely couldn’t be worse, right?
That’s far from a certainty, as we move into a new year with challenges that we know of already, and others that will come out of nowhere. We know from public health officials that the worst of COVID-19 is still ahead, and even though we have vaccines coming to give us hope, more pain and loss is still likely to come our way before we can get people vaccinated. We also know that due to nine months of financial pressures, thousands of Canadians risk losing their homes, their businesses and their livelihoods.
While some of the worst of the economic damage has been held off thanks to government supports like the CERB and funds for small businesses, that has only allowed many to just tread water. Rent and mortgage deferrals are only deferrals, and those amounts owed didn’t go away. These are all pressures that will continue on into 2021, and people will be rightfully looking to their governments to help with. And with all of these challenges that we know about, there are others that will pop up and will create their own chaos.
That means that the eyes of our region will be looking towards Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, expecting our elected leaders to respond and do what’s needed. That will require some mature cooperation and collaboration from our parliamentarians, both federal and provincial. That will require them to put aside petty politics. That will require creativity in finding needed solutions to some of the existential problems we’re now facing. And it will require a kind of political effort that we’ve rarely seen in this country.
With that need ahead of us, Canada will likely be thrown into a pandemic election from coast to coast to coast at some point in 2021. Justin Trudeau let as much slip in one of his year end interviews, making it clear that he wants to go to the polls this year. Given the usual discourse that we’ve seen take place in our general elections in the past decade, it’s doubtful that a 2021 election will deliver the civility, cooperation and maturity that we really need right now. When you add the snipping between the Liberals and the Conservatives, the public comments between Doug Ford and Justin Trudeau, and the general sentiments among the most partisan among us in society, civility and maturity in our politics in 2021 might be as likely as winning a big 6/49 jackpot.
Despite the challenges ahead of us and the decent odds that our parliamentarians will not deliver what’s needed, I’m still choosing to be hopeful. Without hope, we truly have nothing and if 2020 has taught us anything, it should be that any glimmers of hope that we can hold onto are vitally important. They give us something to look forward to rather than to dread coming. We saw a couple months of exemplary maturity and cooperation from our politicians in the Spring, at the start of the pandemic. They showed us all that they are capable of it. 2021 is the year from them to do it again, this time for a full 12 months, or at least until we are through this crisis. It’s what the moment demands, and our hopes for a better 2021 rest on it.