Kevin Lynch is former vice-chair of BMO and former clerk of the Privy Council. Paul Deegan is CEO of Deegan Public Strategies and former deputy executive director of the National Economic Council of the White House.
Like a hurricane, the COVID-19 pandemic roared through the Canadian economy, leaving misery and destruction in its wake. Canadians are now turning to governments for help in the recovery efforts. The Speech from the Throne will be a focal point for Canadians’ expectations. While there will be promises of expensive ornaments on the tree, the litmus test for business owners and workers is whether it puts forward a credible and ambitious post-pandemic economic recovery plan.
A recovery plan will entail deficits and debt to finance investments in our long-term growth. This will push our trillion dollars of net debt even higher. But debt comes at both a cost and a risk. The cost is manageable while interest rates are at abnormally low levels, but the risk is that international financial markets begin to lose faith in our ability to manage our fiscal affairs, both federally and provincially. To avoid this and its caustic effects on growth and confidence, the government should articulate a fiscal anchor in the Throne Speech and commit to a long-term fiscal plan in the budget.
Rebuilding Canadian growth will require a clear path to improve our competitiveness and to create a Canadian advantage. What could an ambitious post-pandemic economic recovery plan include?
We should commit to becoming a global leader in the digital transformation. Government can play an important role in accelerating 5G network deployment, in urban and rural areas, through smarter spectrum policy that emphasizes the rapid release of large amounts of spectrum, on a cost-efficient basis. Smarter spectrum policy is driving the success of 5G leaders such as South Korea. Accenture estimates that widespread adoption of 5G in Canada by 2026 would add 250,000 jobs and bolster GDP by $40-billion annually.
We must build the infrastructure to ensure we remain competitive as a trading nation. We need to ensure that we have the infrastructure to move goods and digital services efficiently. The Infrastructure Bank should be a catalyst to enhance our information, multimodal transportation, and energy infrastructure by mobilizing private sector funds, but it will have to up its game to achieve its potential.
It needs to be easier to be an entrepreneur. Canada dropped from fourth position on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings in 2006 to a dismal 23rd this year. It takes about 250 days to get a construction permit, compared to just 80 days in the United States. Interprovincial barriers hurt small businesses, keeping them local and less competitive. Federal review and approval of trade enabling infrastructure such as pipelines and terminals should not take five years, when competitors are moving faster. Speed matters and uncertainty kills projects.
Let’s rethink how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the oil sands through technology, not regulation. The government could support the deployment of Generation IV Small Modular Nuclear Reactors to meet the steam and heat requirements of Alberta’s heavy oil industry, which are currently met by natural gas and coal. This would dramatically limit greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands operations, allowing expansion, and would help to diversify the province’s economy.
Canada must become a magnet for talent. Immigration drives economic growth, and we need more immigrants to help address the demographic challenges of an aging population, especially in the Atlantic provinces. We could also establish a world-class scholarship, open to both Canadians and non-Canadians, so that our best and brightest remain in Canada and global talent chooses Canada over the U.S. and U.K.
It’s crucial that we move from innovation laggard to leader. To increase productivity and competitiveness, we have to be a leader in key indicators such as R&D spending, patents, and high technology intensive exports. We should set the goal of making Canada a global leader in digital transformation and a top three global player in artificial intelligence and data analytics. We need to make leading edge technology adoption the norm rather than the exception in Canadian business. And we should help workers displaced by the pandemic to upgrade their skills for the digital-driven economy.
Lastly, we must support Canadian firms through procurement, particularly innovative start-ups. Procurement is an important part of the federal government’s policy arsenal, yet it is rarely used strategically to grow our homegrown tech sector. It favours incumbents, who are often foreign behemoths. With the federal government’s $600-billion procurement budget, there is enormous scope to help Canadian companies progress from start-ups to Canadian-based global champions.
Governments cannot solve all problems, but they can create the conditions to make the private sector more successful. We are at one of those pivotal moments. This is a time for stimulus – not austerity – but stimulus that is well-designed, leverages the private sector, and is focused on growing the economy.
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The Canadian Press
NEW DELHI — India’s daily coronavirus cases have dropped to nearly 50,000, maintaining a downturn over the last few weeks.The Health Ministry says 50,129 new cases have taken the overall tally to nearly 7.9 million on Sunday. It also reported 578 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 118,534.The ministry also said India’s active coronavirus cases were below 700,000 across the country and almost 7.1 million people had recovered from COVID-19.India is second to the United States with the largest outbreak of the coronavirus. Last month, India hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, but since then daily cases have fallen by about half and deaths by about a third.Some experts say the decline in cases suggests that the virus may have finally reached a plateau but others question the testing methods. India is relying heavily on antigen tests, which are faster but less accurate than traditional RT-PCR tests.___HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:— Surging coronavirus colours White House race in closing days— Europe, US watch case totals grow, debate new restrictions— Colombia reaches 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases— Iran’s supreme leader has urged authorities to prioritize public health above any economic or security concerns, amid the Mideast’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus. Iran’s death toll from the global pandemic topped 32,000 this week.— Pope Francis met with the Spanish prime minister Saturday at the Vatican, which has had a rash of COVID-19 infections confirmed in recent days, but neither man used a face a mask during the public part of their meeting.— Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has tested positive for the coronavirus; apologizes to those in quarantine because of contact, including Poland’s recent French Open winner.— Police force in England says it will try to stop people from leaving Wales, which has started a 17-day lockdown to slow a surging rate of coronavirus infections.___Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak___HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:MELBOURNE, Australia — A COVID-19 outbreak in the north of Melbourne has led health authorities in Australia’s Victoria state to hold off on any further easing of restrictions in the beleaguered city.Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews withheld any announcement on an easing on Sunday as the state awaits results on 3,000 people who were tested in the city’s north in the past 24 hours.He described it as a “cautious pause” – not a setback – to rule out there wasn’t widespread community transmission linked to the cluster.Among the current restrictions are mandatory wearing of masks and no travelling beyond 25 kilometres (15 miles) from home. At the start of the second wave of cases two months ago, Andrews instituted an overnight curfew and shut down most businesses.“I know it is frustrating,” Andrews said. “I know people are keen to have a long and detailed list of changes to the rules. It is not appropriate for us to do that now.”?Victoria reported seven new coronavirus cases on Sunday, with six linked to the latest outbreak, which involves 39 people across 11 households.No additional deaths kept the state toll at 817 and the national toll at 905.___COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan authorities have terminated a number of passenger trains and widened the curfew as COVID-19 cases related to a new cluster at a garment factory continue to surge.The Railway Department cancelled at least 16 trains — mostly ran through busy office hours — after the number of commuters declined due to the curfew imposed in many parts of the country.More than a dozen villages are isolated in densely populated Western province, which includes capital Colombo.Authorities last week closed the island’s main fish market on Colombo’s outskirts after 49 traders tested positive for the coronavirus. By Sunday, the number of cases from the fish market went up to nearly 900.Authorities say the outbreak is linked to a cluster in a garment factory early this month, which has grown to 4,052 cases, more than half the country’s total of 7,521. During the last 24 hours, 368 new cases have been detected.In a bid to contain the spread, health authorities also closed three fishery harbours and many fish stalls around the country.Several thousand people have been asked to quarantine at home. Schools and key public offices are closed and gatherings banned. The death toll rose to 15 on Saturday.___BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia reached 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, its health ministry says, becoming the second country in Latin America to report that number in less than a week.The nation of 50 million saw cases peak in August and has seen a decline since but still continues to register around 8,000 new infections a day.Eight countries now have more than 1 million confirmed cases, and three are in Latin America. Argentina hit 1 million confirmed cases on Monday. Brazil ranks third worldwide in the number of virus cases, with more than 5 million, and passed 1 million infections back in June. Peru and Mexico are expected to reach 1 million cases each in the coming weeks.Overall, Latin America continues to register some of the highest caseloads, diagnosing more than 100,000 confirmed infections each day, though the World Health Organization reports that Europe is now seeing even larger numbers as a second virus wave strikes.___LANSING, Mich. — Michigan has reported more than 3,000 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the highest daily count yet during the pandemic.The 3,338 new COVID-19 cases reported Saturday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services surpassed the state’s previous single-day record of 2,030 new cases set on Oct. 15. That earlier record had topped the previous record of 1,953 from early April.The state agency also reported Saturday 35 more deaths from COVID-19, raising Michigan’s pandemic toll to 7,182 deaths.Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said in a statement that it’s “now more important than ever that people take this seriously.” She urged Michigan residents to wear a face mask every time they are around someone outside of their own household, to practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings.___EL PASO, Texas — The surge in coronavirus in the Texas border city of El Paso continued Saturday with a record 1,216 new cases, nearly 20% of the state’s 6,125 new cases, according to city-county health officials.There have been 3,346 cases in the city during the past three days, according to city-county health reports. El Paso has reported 38,554 total cases since the pandemic began in March.“Today’s spike is part of an unfortunate national surge that we have been planning and preparing for,” public health director Angela Mora said in a statement. “Now, we need our community to help us by doing their part and staying home, if and when possible, for the next two weeks in order to stop the rapid the spread of the virus.”Gov. Greg Abbott has sent medical equipment and about 500 medical personnel to the region to help fight the virus. There have been more than 858,000 reported cases in Texas and nearly 17,500 deaths, 81 reported Saturday, since the pandemic’s start.___COLUMBIA, Tenn. — A Tennessee hospital is suspending all elective procedures requiring an overnight stay due to a surge in patients hospitalized with COVID-19, The Daily Herald of Columbia, Tennessee, reported.As of Friday evening, Columbia’s Maury Regional Medical Center was treating 50 COVID-19 inpatients, 20 of whom were in the medical centre’s 26-bed intensive care unit. In response, the hospital said Friday it is suspending elective surgical procedures that require an overnight stay for two weeks, beginning on Monday.“The time has long passed for our community to take this virus seriously,” Alan Watson, CEO of Maury Regional Health, said in a Friday statement. “We are seeing the impact of our community letting down their guard, and we must make every effort to mitigate the spread of this virus.”On Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health reported that statewide hospitalizations had reached a new record of 1,300 patients with COVID-19 and had an ICU bed availability of just 11%.Martin Chaney, Maury Regional’s chief medical officer, said small home gatherings have become the emerging threat through which the disease is being spread in the six-county region the medical centre covers.“In our homes, we all let our guard down,” Chaney said. “You think it is safe to not socially distance, and you take your masks off. That is spreading the disease very rapidly.”He said Maury Regional has consistently seen a surge in cases about two weeks after each major holiday.“It is so predictable now,” Chaney said. “When families travel and get together for holidays, it is a high-risk time for spreading the virus.”Tennessee recorded 2,574 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday and 24 new deaths, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 3,100.___VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met with the Spanish prime minister at the Vatican, but neither man wore a mask during the public part of their meeting.That’s despite 13 Swiss Guards and someone staying at the same Vatican City guest house where Francis lives recently testing positive for the coronavirus.Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wore a mask when he arrived in a Vatican courtyard, but everyone sat unmasked immediately before and after his closed-door talks with Francis.Spain this week became the first country in Western Europe with more than 1 million confirmed virus cases.The Vatican says Sanchez also spoke with the Holy See’s foreign minister, discussing matters including “the current health emergency, the process of European integration and migration.”In his speech, Francis called politics “an act of charity, nobility” and the mission of a politician is to help a nation to progress. The pontiff also says its “very sad” when ideologies drive the destiny of a nation.___PHOENIX — Arizona is experiencing increases in coronavirus cases and the rate of positive test results.The 14-day rolling average of daily confirmed infections rose from 617 on Oct. 9 to 914 on Friday. Meanwhile, the average daily deaths increased from 7.6 to 8.4 and the positive test average went from 6.5% to 8.9%.Rolling averages even out daily spikes and drops.The state Department of Health Services on Saturday reported 890 cases and four additional deaths, increasing the Arizona totals to 236,772 confirmed infections and 5,869 deaths.___OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma has registered more than 1,800 newly confirmed coronavirus cases.The Oklahoma State Department of Health report on Saturday comes one day after Gov. Kevin Stitt extended a state of emergency another 30 days. The health department reported 1,829 new cases for a total of 115,685.There have been 11 more deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,245.The Associated Press
Virus, economy top concerns as Lithuanians vote in runoff – ABC News
The coronavirus pandemic is the main domestic issue as Lithuania holds a parliamentary runoff election Sunday, and the winner will have to tackle a rapidly deteriorating public health sector and high unemployment
In the second round, 68 of the 141 seats in Lithuania’s legislative assembly, the Seimas, are up for grabs. The other seats were allotted after the Oct. 11 first round of voting.
More than 7% of Lithuania’s 2.5 million voters have already cast early ballots for the runoff, according to election authorities who set up special drive-in polling stations because of the pandemic.
Lithuania fared comparatively well during the first wave of the pandemic, but like elsewhere in Europe this fall, the nation of 3 million people has reported worrying spikes in recent weeks. Overall, it has seen over 9,100 infections and 126 reported deaths.
After weeks of hesitation, the Lithuanian government imposed a quarantine in 12 of 60 districts that starts on Monday. Opposition lawmakers have criticized the government for not doing enough to stabilize the latest outbreak.
The economic impact of the pandemic has hit Lithuania hard: it’s unemployment rate was over 14% in September compared to 9% in February. The outgoing parliament had drafted a 2021 budget with a 4-billion euro ($4.7 billion) deficit.
The election’s first round resulted in the conservative Homeland Union party winning 23 seats, or 24.8% of the vote, while the ruling Farmers and Greens party only grabbed 16 seats, or 17.5%.
“If the conservatives are successful on Sunday, they would very likely try to form a new ruling coalition with other two center-right partners — the Freedom Party and the Liberal movement,” Vilnius University political scientist Tomas Janeliunas told The Associated Press. “Yet this would be a rather fragile majority.”
Some 54 Homeland Union candidates made it into the runoff, while the Farmers and Greens have 32 contenders. Together, the Freedom Party and the Liberal movement have 21 candidates. Two other center-left parties that have crossed the 5% support threshold into parliament could join the Farmers and Greens in a new coalition but they have few candidates in the runoff.
Lithuania, a member of the European Union and NATO, has kept strong democratic traditions and sustainable economic growth since declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. It has also played a major diplomatic role as the protests in Belarus, its southern neighbor, unfold against that nation’s authoritarian leader.
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