The New Normal Report

Everyone is talking about the “new normal” of living through the COVID-19 pandemic. We know we are facing overwhelming situations and conditions. Millions of Canadians are out of work. People are living isolated from one another (well, at least for the most part). Schools are shut down. All of them! Thousands upon thousands of small businesses are close to the edge of ruin. Stock markets tanked. The Saudis and Russians thought now would be a good time to tank oil prices.

The above is more than a brief and inadequate accounting of events and impacts. It is and will be for some time “a new normal.”

I instituted policy last week than disallows my staff and me from attending any meetings that are not online or by telephone. I am not sure how long that policy will be in effect.

Who really knows right now? I did hear President Trump would like all this virus stuff to be taken care of by Easter. Apparently, the weather that time of year is perfect for emerging virus free.

I can tell you that our organization got real busy researching and adopting an online meeting platform. Our restrictions will lift eventually but I can’t say when, can you? I have a feeling though that our future communications and engagement practices will be adding online tools and platforms to the mix, not to replace face to face engagement but to facilitate more engagement and ensure optimal inclusion in our community development work. Another “new normal?” I think so.

Thousands are organizing efforts and resources to feed the hungry, help them transportation, get their medications, and on. Organizations are adjusting operations while increasing focus on helping out during this crisis. It’s what community does – well, a minority does the lion’s share, if we are honest. It’s always that way.

Edmonton group on Face Book

Reminds me when many moons ago – in the 1990s some time – I took a bus to Port Alberni to visit an acquaintance. The economy was not good and in Port Alberni it was in the tank. Short story is that I hung out with a bunch of people who were active in the town’s bartering system. I attended a bartering “event” and a few dozen people showed up.

They were there for serious reasons. But their energy was a good energy, not one grayed by their “bad situations.” Don’t get me wrong. I am not espousing that the resolution to the coronavirus-infested world is to “put on a happy face.”

I am pointing out that these folks shared that energy in spite of the dire straits they were in. Some people had some beer and shared it. Friends visited one another in clusters: the young ones and the old ones. There was a thrum to it all weaving its rumbling, warm drone through out the small crowd.

People traded hair cuts for vegetables, legal advice for a massage, home brew for baked goods and so it went. None of it covered the bills. People still had big troubles but they refused to just give up.

My host told me, “We had to do something and it had to be with others.” I wonder if that simple yet profound statement might become a key principle in “a new normal.”

COVID-19 has reminded me how incredible people are, how they will rise to any challenge for the good of others. Nurses, physicians, the police, fire fighters and the janitors and the staff in senior care facilities, the many who deliver food to people – every day people and sadly too often under-valued by governments and too many tax payers. Today’s heroes are not CEOs and philanthropists or elected officials. They are workers who are facing political ideology that sees their work as inefficient and unnecessary. Imagine how bad off we’d be if the coronavirus said howdy-doo two years from now, in a fragmented, underfunded, and lower quality health care system.

Wouldn’t it be good if in the post-C19 world the people who care for the rest of us actually were valued not only for the work they do, but their personal commitment to doing it. I can only imagine the risks today of being a health care worker.

I think the Canadian government understands the scale of the problem, given the size of its contribution to offset the impacts. Our provincial government is taking action, the City, too. Of course they are criticized constantly (that is not “a new normal”).

I know our leaders understand the destructive disruption we are all experiencing albeit to different degrees. But where’s the innovation? Where is the courage to finally admit our income security programs are antiquated, inadequate, irrelevant, and an administrative burden?

How about seizing the day and implementing universal basic income. I read one report that UBI would cost half of what the Liberals are spending. And no one has tallied up the savings we would experience by having only one system. If we were on the ball, we would have implemented UBI by now. The impacts of automation and AI will be – hell, is already – disrupting the economy and displacing jobs. It will replace the majority of truck drivers and cab drivers and a whack of pharmacists and lawyers. The coronavirus is just another BIG compelling reason to engage in some disruptive innovation!

Money in the hands of people makes more sense than top down bail outs. Look at how many jobs were created by the provincial corporate tax break? UBI is an investment in our people, our country and our communities. It does not make people lazy. It is not cost prohibitive. It is human-centred. Oh yea, imagine if every adult had a UBI income of $25,000. The people in our country would be much better off than they currently are in all of this virus mess.

I know it won’t happen, but I do suggest that the movement to adopt UBI will increase markedly and frame a national conversation about “a new normal” economically that actually benefits people first and foremost.

I hope to continue to write about “a new normal.”


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