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Thursday , 22 October 2020

EDITORIAL: Two ways the political landscape could change after the pandemic

I have not resorted to keeping a tally marking the passing days on my bedroom wall, but it is tempting.

We are roughly 50 days into the “new normal” and the intensity of opinions has increased in our comment threads.

The political attitudes of Lakeland residents, Albertans, and Canadians have been challenged during this stay home period and government mistrust is becoming increasingly more palpable.

Also, traffic is getting livelier, the weather warmer…the want to get on with things deepening.

Politically, Canada’s wide swath of views was just represented in the fall election: a minority Liberal government, an oh-so-close Conservative opposition, and the left-wing Bloc Quebecois and NDP each have the ability to sway the final decisions of the government.

We were already divided on how to move forward before the pandemic and have experienced a brief sense of bipartisanship.

However, that will not last. So it seems to me there could be two responses after COVID-19 for an apolitical person that could reshape their beliefs and influence the country moving forward.

Either you’ve realized that you want the government in your life as little as possible and don’t want interference in your affairs, or you don’t so much mind and are supportive of a larger state.

Think about the protestors at the Legislature last week and their calls to end the public health shutdown. Obviously, they’ve made their choice.

But what about the mother taking care of two children on her own who has no interest in politics, or the high school student who just graduated: all of the sudden these questions might dawn on her.

Moving forward, I anticipate more people will generally see government as an impediment to freedom and getting things done and become more libertarian as a result.

Or, there is the opposite view.

The government has tried to provide unprecedented relief funding to many affected by COVID-19 in one form or another, whether it’s the elusive Canada Emergency Response Benefit or the wage subsidies.

Since this temporary relief program is keeping many families afloat, many people will feel this is laying the groundwork for a universal basic income program–that sends payments to Canadians every month to “top up” to living standards.

If it’s a good idea during a pandemic, wouldn’t it be a good idea in general? Would now not be the time to launch an ambitious program that aims to works better than other social programs since there is now some precedence?

These strains of reactions are from a higher-level view, but I believe these are the political realizations some may have who don’t typically think about politics.

How views and attitudes change, likely coincides with one major lightning rod facet of the Canadian political landscape: the energy sector.

This ongoing political football has been kicked around from courts to lobbyists, to green energy folks to energy backers–with years of gridlock.

I suspect that some people on the fence about energy expansion–Canadians who don’t live in Alberta I imagine–will feel more inclined to answer this important question if they haven’t before.

This change in political scenery will either draw more people into the camp of economic growth and energy independence for Canada, or deepen the desires of anti-oil Canadians to shut off the taps for good.

If it’s truly the goal of the Canadian Left to kill the energy industry this could be seen as the window, but it just as easily could make others realize that a strong economy is an ingredient to a strong country, and these oil and gas projects are part of the common good.

Unfortunately, I fear the damage has been done in this respect and many political views will be unchanged after this pandemic. In fact, many will feel their opinion more deeply than before.

But the apolitical person–someone to be cherished, frankly–could be in tune with more of the things they like or don’t like about government when all is said and done.

Maybe that is the road to a better working country.

Michael Menzies, editor

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connect Media. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.