What political challenges lie ahead in 2021

trudeau

With 2020 — a year like no other — now in the rearview mirror, CTV’s Question Period convened a series of guests to dive into the political year ahead and offer their forecasts for 2021.

From high-profile partisans to a former leader and those with their finger on the pulse of the ongoing health and economic crises, here’s CTV Question Period’s panelists’ assessments of the challenges ahead, and advice to the parties and their leaders.

The vaccine rollout

CTV News infectious disease specialist, Dr. Abdu Sharkawy.

“I think there's many challenges. I think the first challenge that is pretty obvious is the logistical challenge. The front-runner vaccines right now are still dual dose vaccines, so we're going to require people to be vaccinated at 21 or 28 day intervals. Being able to manage that and having some sort of a tracking system or a registry of some sort I think is a big task when we're looking at potentially millions of Canadians who are going to be getting this vaccine. The other is in clearing up all of the misconceptions and misinformation, or lack of education out there regarding vaccine efficacy and safety… It's going to be a monumental task to make sure that that lingering element of vaccine hesitancy or doubt is removed so that we can look at the prospect of herd immunity as being a tangible reality. We don't want to hold back our society from any more damage and loss than this pandemic has already wreaked upon us.”

Improving COVID-19 messaging

CTV News infectious disease specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy.

“I think we need clear messaging quite frankly, and we need this messaging to be consistent across all levels of government… We can't have a situation where there's a discordance between the type of principle and the degree of emphasis on public health restrictions that are going on in Alberta, or B.C. versus Ontario and Quebec. We saw how quickly the situation changed from one that seemed perfectly manageable, relatively safe in Manitoba to one that was completely dire, seemingly overnight… I think the principles of public safety and public health, need to be maintained across the board. That communication strategy I think really needs to be something that's the responsibility of everyone. There needs to be consistency, we need to get engagement of public health with different marginalized communities, and utilize all public health resources and community engagement through faith and cultural institutions to help tie in a lot of people who feel a little bit disconnected, who feel disenfranchised and maybe not heard. And that I think is going to be, ultimately, the most important thing to determine if we can control this pandemic, while we're waiting for those reinforcements from the vaccine."

The economic impact and recovery

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux.

“The biggest challenge will be the economic recovery, and that will have big implications obviously for all Canadians as we return or we hope to return to what is like more of a normal life. But it will also have big implications for the government, because it will affect the pace of recovery in the deficit so the pace at which the deficit will return to more normal levels… It will be difficult for the government to sustain a level of deficit of around $400 billion for more than just a few years… We haven't seen a new fiscal anchor by this government, and that's something that I'll be looking forward [to] in this new year."

The federal-provincial relationship

Political commentator and former Liberal strategist Supriya Dwivedi.

“We haven’t had a serious discussion amongst Canadians and amongst political leaders about the kind of health care Canadians expect, and the kind of health care that we pay for. There are looming issues on the horizon that are going to be downloaded on to the health-care system. We have an aging population, there's an increase in chronic conditions… I think it's incumbent upon the federal government to really be making that argument to people with respect to the looming challenges that the health-care system is going to be facing in the next, you know, 10, 15, 20 years or so."