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The way forward

Puneet Sandhar: the road to economic recovery should include fixing some of Canada’s structural problems.
The road to recovery involves building more of these.

The year began with optimism for Canada’s economy: we were on track for steady growth; a rebounding real estate sector; and rising employment. There were concerns of a decline arriving sometime in the near future, but general consensus was that whatever happened, it could be fixed through the usual economic responses – tax cuts, red tape reduction, or investments.

All important steps. But not even close to the level of response needed to revive our flatlining economy COVID-19 has induced. The most recent numbers show that B.C. lost 264,100 jobs in April, bringing the unemployment rate to 11.5%.

Not only has the pandemic brought about a rapid shift in our economy, but will have a lasting impact on how people live their daily lives. Everything is changing, creating an opportunity for governments at all levels to re-evaluate and make progress on things that should have happened long ago.

It’s an opportunity to think outside the box on pressing issues and re-evaluate priorities. The economic recovery packages should be used to make progress on issues that have plagued Canada for far too long.

It should start with infrastructure investments. We’ll need historic amounts to kick-start our economy. Fortunately (and unfortunately) there is no shortage of projects that governments need to move on: hospitals; schools; transit; roads; the list goes on.

We can use these investments to re-imagine our neighbourhoods. We can finally make progress on affordable housing by expanding transit lines into all parts of the Lower Mainland, opening up new neighbourhoods that may have been considered too far to commute from: affordability and accessibility.

If there was any doubt about the importance of Canada’s universal healthcare system, there should be none now. Moving ahead on expanding existing hospitals and building new ones should be a critical priority.

The battle to ensure sufficient amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) has highlighted the need to have strong domestic supply chains, and the need for a free flow of goods within Canada. Ottawa and every provincial government should together re-visit the issue of internal trade, and do more to clean-up the web of regulations that have long denied Canada from having a stronger domestic economy.

These are some of the many areas where governments can bring real change. If the same level of seriousness, urgency, and practicality is brought to the recovery that has been rightly given to the emergency – they will pass that test too.

Puneet Sandhar is a lawyer and managing partner of Sanghera Sandhar Law Group based in Surrey, B.C and practices in the area of Real Estate Law and Land Development. She has and continues to serve on boards for numerous organizations including the Surrey Homeless and Housing Society, City of Surrey Board of Variance. She was awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for her volunteerism and work in the community.