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Money Dan Robertson: COVID-19 will change the world — businesses and governments need to prepare

21:47  25 march  2020
21:47  25 march  2020 Source:   nationalpost.com

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a person standing in front of a building: A pedestrian wearing a mask walks past the entrance to a Hudson’s Bay store in Toronto during ongoing COVID-19 crisi, on March 19. © Peter J Thompson/National Post A pedestrian wearing a mask walks past the entrance to a Hudson’s Bay store in Toronto during ongoing COVID-19 crisi, on March 19.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN.ca or Microsoft.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu has warned that 30 to 70 per cent of Canadians will be infected with COVID-19 before the disease runs its course. In a best-case scenario, assuming 30 per cent are infected and a mortality rate of one per cent, 112,770 Canadians will die of the disease. That’s roughly the same number that perished in the First and Second World Wars combined.

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The world’s economy is on its knees. The stock market has plunged further and faster than it did in the Great Crash 90 years ago. Trillions of dollars in wealth has evaporated. In the past week, one million Canadians have applied for employment insurance. We lack the capacity to even process those applications, and this is only the beginning.

Those who are engaged in partisan politics believe that the differences between Western centrist parties, such as the Conservative and Liberal parties in Canada, are vast. On the larger issues, however, the differences are slight, and have been for the past 75 years. Most Liberals and Conservatives agree on big issues like free market capitalism, free trade, multilateralism, the importance of international institutions, relatively open borders and a generous welfare state. There are, of course, differences in degree, emphasis and how best to pursue such objectives, but there is a consensus on them. And this is true throughout the Western, democratic world.

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Yet COVID-19 is going to re-shape that landscape.

Look at the political impact of the 2008-09 financial crisis and its aftermath. In the United States, as elsewhere, the New York-Washington, D.C., political class was unanimous in its view that the economic survival of the nation depended on a massive bailout of major financial institutions and corporations. They were, as we heard so many times, “too big to fail.”

Wall Street got its bailout. But what did ordinary working- and middle-class Americans get? A Darwinian struggle for survival that has caused political upheaval on both the left and right. On the left, the emergence of the Occupy movement and the socialist crusade of Sen. Bernie Sanders. On the right, more consequentially, the rise of the Tea Party movement and a near pathological distrust of Washington “elites” that propelled U.S. President Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican party and, eventually, the White House.

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Today’s COVID-19 crisis is far worse, and the economic, political and social carnage will be far more extensive. Already, countries are introducing measures that would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago. Here in Canada, the principle of open borders and the acceptance of any and all refugee claimants was sacrosanct to the Trudeau government. In the space of a week, both were swept aside.

The polarization in the United States will accelerate. And Canada, where we believe we are free of the political pathologies of our southern neighbour, is not immune.

a group of people posing for the camera:  Occupy Wall Street protesters gather in Ottawa in 2011. © Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency Occupy Wall Street protesters gather in Ottawa in 2011.

The COVID-19 crisis will turbocharge the populist tide that is already in motion throughout the Western world. The decades-long centrist consensus is endangered, and politics will re-align around a new axis: left-wing populism versus right-wing populism. If you thought politics was angry now, look out.

Around the world, people are realizing which institutions have failed them, such as the World Health Organization, and which ones are keeping them safe, such as their families, medical professionals, communities, local businesses (such as grocery stores and pharmacies) and, in many cases, governments. The coming wave of populist anger will not just be directed at the governments and public institutions that let them down during the current crisis, but at businesses, as well.

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Make no mistake about it: a storm is coming, and it’s headed straight for Bay Street. Every business leader needs to understand this and get ready.

First, they need to temper their expectations about recovery assistance. Unlike in 2009, they will be at the back of the line, as the bulk of direct benefits will go to individuals and families.

a close up of a person wearing a costume:  A surgical mask is placed on the Fearless Girl statue outside the New York Stock Exchange on March 19 in New York. © Kevin Hagen/AP Photo A surgical mask is placed on the Fearless Girl statue outside the New York Stock Exchange on March 19 in New York.

Businesses also need to take measures to retain their employees. A good example is Loblaws, which gave a raise to its front-line workers, retroactive to March 8. This also includes getting executive compensation in line with what they pay their employees, so they can keep workers on their payrolls.

Companies must resist the temptation to raise prices or fees for any product or service. They also need to reorient their corporate social responsibility efforts around helping the community recover. After all, it will be a long time before anyone cares about fashionable virtue signalling again.

Credit card companies, banks and other creditors need to lower or eliminate interest rates. Charging people 18 per cent on their credit card balance right now is obscene. For many, it will be their only source of funds throughout much of this crisis.

Ontario health minister confirms first COVID-19 death in province

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According to psychologist Jonathan Haidt, people form political opinions based on moral intuition. Among the criteria voters use to form judgments are fairness and loyalty. The same is true when it comes to businesses. People will remember who behaves well and who behaves badly during this pandemic, and there will be a desire to reward and punish them, on both the left and the right. Those who understand this will prosper. Those who do not will fail.

National Post

Dan Robertson is a Conservative strategist and principal of Pathos Strategy.

Business Council of Canada calls on Trudeau to do more about COVID-19 pandemic .
Business Council of Canada calls on Trudeau to do more about COVID-19 pandemicGoldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, wrote an open letter to Trudeau on Saturday, calling for a strict self-isolation policy across the country to help slow the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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