Introducing the Ontario Recovery Series

The watershed moment that marked the start of the pandemic varies for many. Some may remember March 17, 2020, when Premier Doug Ford solemnly declared a state of emergency in Ontario. Others may think back a week earlier to March 11, 2020, the day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and, closer to home, the NBA announced the suspension of the 2019-2020 season. Gradually, then all at once, the world came to a standstill.

The year that followed will be analyzed in due course. Books will be written on the public’s acceptance of unprecedented health measures; students will discuss the differences between governments’ responses; and elections could be won and lost on the very same in the near future. Right now, however, governments of all stripes must confront the biggest public policy challenge since the start of the pandemic: how to recover from it.

The Ontario Recovery Series tackles the question on everyone’s mind: what comes next? What was once unimaginable – business closures, mask mandates, social distancing – has become commonplace, but soon, one hopes, the COVID-19 pandemic will be in the past. Government must be ready with policy solutions to enable and fuel our collective recovery when that time comes.

After a year of record spending, Ontario’s deficit currently stands at $38.5 billion. The province won’t see another balanced budget for nearly a decade. How can policy makers encourage the above average economic growth needed to put Ontario back on a secure financial footing?

Business closures have had unprecedented impacts on employment. In 2020, Ontario’s employment declined by over 355,000 jobs – the largest drop on record. Last year, annual unemployment reached 9.6 per cent – the highest since 1993. How can we meaningfully support people in the hardest hit industries, like tourism and hospitality?

At the same time unemployment soared, so too did housing prices. In May 2021, the average price of a house in Ontario stood at approximately $866,000 – a year over year increase of 37.6 per cent. How will the government address housing affordability alongside a struggling workforce?

As hospital capacity was prioritized to care for patients with COVID-19, a backlog of elective surgeries and diagnostic procedures developed. Some estimate this backlog could take three and a half years to clear. How can the government ensure patients get the care they need, without compounding the pressures already faced by Ontario’s hospitals?

Tragically, nearly 3,800 people have died in long-term care homes due to COVID-19. This crisis highlighted staffing shortages, overcrowding, and operational inefficiencies that have hampered the long-term care system for years. Where do decision makers start to address these challenges?

StrategyCorp’s team of government and industry experts are laser focused on these issues and more. This series will address a range of policy challenges and present practical solutions for the government to consider, and for the public to discuss. While there are no easy answers, recovering from the pandemic will take a collective effort. That work begins now.

Today marks the first publication in this series. As the pandemic wanes and the public health crisis subsides, attention must turn to the sustainability of our health care system. But first, government must address the pressures the pandemic has created on Ontario’s hospitals today. The backlog of elective surgeries and diagnostic procedures facing the healthcare system is severe and runs the risk of “hallway healthcare” becoming worse than ever. Read StrategyCorp’s own Kailey Vokes’ thoughts on how to address this challenge by keeping people out of hospital, while providing greater local access to needed care.