If midnight represents the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic — with dusk its beginning and dawn the reprieve — then it’s probably about 10 p.m. right now, recent graduate David Thibodeau says.
“I think the worst is still yet to come, I don't think we've quite hit that peak yet,” he said. “I always knew that a second wave was coming, but I just didn't know it was going to be as extreme as it has been.”
A month ago, Thibodeau says, his assessment might have been that it was closer to midnight, roughly the same view that emerged from a Canada 2020 survey done in mid-September and released last week.
More than half of the almost 1,600 people the progressive think tank and its research partners polled between Sept. 9 and 13 said the country remains in the darkest parts of the night, while more than a third said we are emerging from the worst of the pandemic.
Those younger than 35 years old were more likely to say Canada is in the “early dawn,” meaning the worst has already passed.
Alex Paterson, executive director of Canada 2020, agreed that future versions of the survey planned for the coming months could push back into the evening on that scale, since the pandemic has moved into a second wave of infections in many parts of the country and shorter winter days are on the way.
“There are going to have to be tremendous wells of compassion that we tap for one another over the next six to eight months,” Paterson said.
The survey's findings also suggest a groundswell of support, especially among younger people, for government to take bold steps to help Canada recover from the pandemic and also address the inequalities and injustices it has exposed and exacerbated.
A recent @Canada2020 survey suggests a groundswell of support, especially among younger people, for government to take bold steps to help Canada recover from the pandemic and address the inequalities it has exposed.
Thibodeau's views are aligned with most of the younger people polled by the think tank. He said the pandemic has created opportunities for Canada to fix structural problems and “implement big ideas that we haven’t had the chance to explore yet.”
Sixty per cent of the younger people surveyed agreed that government should use this opportunity to introduce new programs and services, compared to half of the overall group.
Forty-four per cent of the younger cohort said they either “support” or “strongly support” a Canadian guaranteed income program, compared to 40 per cent overall.
“That there is such support among younger generations for big initiatives coming out of this, for me, is encouraging,” said Canada 2020’s Paterson. “Hopefully, generationally, we have a restoring of faith in our ability to collectively do big things through government,” he added. “And young people think big.”
And a much higher portion of young people (48 per cent versus 34 per cent) said they either support or strongly support a deferral of rent payments for as long as landlords do not have to pay their mortgages.
“It’s young people who are in those (minimum wage) jobs, that are in those circumstances,” Paterson said.
More than a third of young people surveyed said they strongly support divesting from fossil fuels and investing in clean energy, compared to less than a quarter of the overall survey group.
“At some point we’ll have to look at the finances, but if we invest appropriately now, we won’t have to worry about it in the future,” Thibodeau said, noting that spending on a green recovery and future-proof infrastructure would create well-paying jobs.
Younger people were also more likely to strongly support diverting funding from police to health care, increasing minimum wage and unemployment insurance, and granting permanent residency to non-citizens who worked through the pandemic.
“Younger people care more about global citizenship,” Paterson said. “The chest-thumping economic nationalism narrative seems to find purchase with older generations as opposed to younger generations.”
On questions about police, younger people were also much more supportive of forcing officers to wear body cameras and to increase their training on systemic racism and sexual violence.
The under-35 cohort was largely in line with the broad consensus on the importance of wearing masks to limit COVID-19 spread, that the pandemic is not being blown out of proportion and that social distancing is not causing more economic damage than the virus would.
Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer