Transcript: CSPS Virtual Café Series: In Conversation with Hassan Yussuff and Goldy Hyder
Taki Sarantakis: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the first CSPS virtual cafe. I'm Taki Sarantakis. I'm the president of the Canada School of Public Service, wishing you a very good afternoon for our first CSPS virtual cafe. This is a new series that we started at the school. It's a series that's intended to discuss topical issues that are interesting with insightful and thoughtful guests. And if there is interest, we'll do a lot of these or I will do maybe one every couple of weeks or maybe even one a week. If there's not a lot of interest, we won't do them. But I think judging from the first one, there probably will be some interest. We've got over 2000 people joining us live today. So that's a really good indication of interest in kind of the hunger that people are feeling to talk about current events in a public policy forum, in a forum where civil servants can talk to each other about things that are relevant to their jobs. So we've got another seven or eight planned. So we'll do at least seven or eight of these. And like I said, if there's interest, we'll do more. And so follow the school on Twitter to see if there are others in the series that interests you going forward. Cette session aujourd'hui est complètement en anglais mais on a de traduction simultanée. The next session will be in French and there will also be simultaneous interpretation back into English. The next session in French is one you don't want to miss. Again, follow us on Twitter because it's something that you don't get to hear too often and it's a real, real coup. So the last thing before I turn it over to our guests to begin is you can ask questions during the course of the event that there's a little bubble on the top right hand side of your screen. Punch that and type in your question and then that question through the magic of email will come to me. So we're going to start. Our first guest is Heidi... sorry Goldy I don't know why I keep doing this. Our first guest is Goldy Hyder. Goldy, tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about your organisation. Over to you, sir.
Goldy Hyder: All right. Well, thank you very much for the opportunity, Taki. Great to see you and really delighted to be here with my friend Hassan. This is our third time together. So we've completed the business labour hat trick on talking about what's taking place in society. The Business Council of Canada, which I have the pleasure of leading, is an organisation that's been here for about forty three years. It started out with Tom D'Aquino, who used to be, actually, principal secretary to Prime Minister Trudeau, the father, many, many years ago. And it started off as effectively as a CEO Council. John Manley, whom I know you would all know was my predecessor and now I've had the pleasure of taking over. It's an organisation that represents effectively one hundred and fifty. We actually have about one hundred and sixty four. So we're a bit oversubscribed right now, but one hundred and fifty to one hundred and sixty of Canada's leading CEOs, which includes a group of next generation leaders that we bring on board as well, at no cost to them. So they get exposure to what leadership looks like. We represent about two million jobs in the economy and then we like to use a multiple of at least four to say that the supply chain impact of those businesses being in Canada is another eight million people or so. So it's a significant part of the Canadian economy. In fact, it's half the listings on the Toronto Stock Exchange are our members. And so a significant market, market capitalisation. Look, I wasn't looking for an opportunity to move from 17 years at Hill and Knowlton. I loved what I did. And during that time, a lot of what I did gave me a great appreciation for what all of you do. But when the council came calling, I said to them, I said, the only reason I would be interested is if you're interested in moving the country forward. To me, this is about Canada, and I was very pleased to see the response from our members as we go forward here and all the things that we've been able to do, including building partnerships and relationships with people like Hassan and in the Aboriginal Indigenous communities and, you know, in the education sector, because, you know, that hashtag "we're all in this together" came for COVID but the truth is, we are all in this together. And my experience, having run Hill and Knowlton government relations before this gave me tremendous exposure to the public service. In fact, any time I ever gave classes on lobbying, I would say "rule one, solve as many of your problems with the public service as you can, because if you do, your client will be well served, you'll be well served. You'll get a great outcome." If it goes political I don't know what to do. It's going to be a crapshoot as to whether it works out or not. So I have tremendous regard for what you all do. But I'm particularly grateful by way of concluding, if I can just say thank you for all that you've had to do in the last one hundred plus days. Nobody signed up for this. It's been first hand, I've seen how hard everybody has worked and how diligently and the speed and response with which you've been able to execute government policies in terms of programmes. Your job is to get the job done and you've been able to do it. And I just want to say, on behalf of the business community and as Canadians, thank you.
Taki: Thank you. Our next guest is Hassan Yussuff. Hassan tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about your organisation.
Hassan Yussuff: Well, I'm the president of the Canadian Labour Congress. I've been there now as president for the last six years. I've been with the Canadian Labour Congress now 21 years going on 22, which is a long time to be in this role. The Congress represents three and a half million workers across the country in every sector of the economy. And of course, many of the people that's on this call today who are public sector working in the greater public sector are members of our affiliate either PSAC or PIPS or one of the other organisations that we represent. But our members, of course, work in every aspect and of course, in this COVID-19 period, of course, a lot of them have been the people performing the essential service that Canadians depend on, whether it's food supply, whether it's transportation, whether it's communication, the list goes on. And it's a very diverse membership in every part of the country. You go in every province or territory, you will probably meet our members if you take an aeroplane or if you get off any kind of a public service, you will whether it's the bus or the train. You will encounter our members across the country. So the reality is, of course, it's a very diverse job. I get to do a lot of things. Of course, one of my important role in this capacity, not just to represent our members, but also to deal with governments both at the national level and at the regional level in regard to the issues that come before us as a movement and of course, more importantly, that we have to deal with. I also want, like Goldy, I want to play a tribute to, of course, the public service, of course, in this very challenging time we're living in. I know many Canadians don't wake up in the morning and think of the public service as an important service and the role that people play in regard to what they do and how it influences their life. But when you go back to March, when the pandemic was upon us and of course, our government declared we're going to shut the economy down and starting to deal with the fallout of this. We were receiving, I think the public service was processing about 7000 unemployment insurance claims on a regular week. It went from 7000 to 71,000 within 3 days and went to two hundred and sixty something thousand within like a week and a half to two weeks from that. So all of these workers, of course, magnified a thousand fold were laid off and having to depend, of course, on the work of the public service in getting them a cheque and more importantly, how they were going to manage their lives. All of this was done within a three week period, they put together a programme, were able to roll that out and get checks in people's pockets and their bank accounts within a short period of time. I think our country owe the public service a great deal of gratitude and thanks for their ongoing service. Despite the fact they are not in their regular jobs in their offices, they were able to ensure Canadians were kept safe, at the same time while it continued to ensure that we're trying to keep the economy going. So a great deal of thanks, there's more to be said about the important role. You know, too often than not, people don't tend to give a lot of recognition but I think we need to recognise the important public service we have in this country who are playing an important role in holding this country together and give us some recognition that we need to be much more, I guess, thoughtful in what we say about them, but equally how we compliment them for the incredible work they're doing right now to ensure all of us can continue to function in some way as we try to figure out how we're going to get the economy back on its feet. So that's a little bit about the CLC and, more importantly, my role.
Taki: Terrific. And maybe if I can take a moment to just kind of return the thank you, because I really view this as an honour and a privilege to be talking to you two gentlemen today who represent, between you, some of Canada's largest corporations and companies and employers and some of the largest employment units in the country, including, as you said Hassan, parts of the public service. Because sometimes in the kind of a bit of the Ottawa bubble, we can think of leadership as government leadership. But one of the things we want to do through this series is we want to showcase leadership outside of government, too, because that's something we in Ottawa don't see as much, even though we, like you looking into the government, see and know how important the public service is. We also need to look outside of the government and look to leaders in the labour field and look to leaders in the business field for lessons as well. And that's what I hope we can do over the next 45 minutes or so. So let's get into it. You guys both mentioned it, we're about a hundred days into COVID. Mentally I kind of count COVID as March 13th, which is the last day that I was full time in the office. I grabbed my laptop and my tablet and chargers and alternative internet pucks and I packed them in my bag and I headed home. And I know that, you know, we're either going to be connected or we're not going to be connected. So we've been connected. The economy is still here. The country is still here. But it's a very different economy and in some ways a little bit of a different Canada than it was one hundred days ago. So some statistics, unemployment's around 14%, annualised GDP around -8%. The largest single line item that we will spend this year in the government of Canada, COVID support about 70 billion dollars. So the largest single line item in the government of Canada expenditures this year will be something that didn't even exist 100 days ago. So talk to us a little bit about where we are and how we've done so far. Maybe I'll start with you, Goldy.
Goldy: Well, look, let me first say, let's acknowledge where we've been. The hundred days has been critical to help us get to where we are. And we should not lose sight of the fact that people like the members I represent led the charge for a shutdown. It's rare where a business leader comes out and says, shut me down. And the reason many of us did that, and not only to give cover to our governments, but because we were already experiencing this virus in other countries for 4, 6, 8, 12 weeks in some cases. So we knew what was coming. And I think that there's no greater example of setting aside all of one's interests to say what's the right thing to do for the country. The shutdown was the right thing to do. Why do I say that? There was 2 or 3 critical things I think we need to recognise. Number one, and I'll just tell you anecdotally, if I can, to show you how these things work. It was one weekend, that very weekend that you that you described where suddenly I started getting calls from CEOs who had returned home, coincidentally, from a variety of different hospital board and hospital foundation meetings, where many of them are chairs of the boards and so forth. And they started randomly telling me, "Goldy, I just got back. You're not going to believe how concerned the healthcare workers are. Like they are really, really concerned about what could be a tsunami of cases" and so I said "well, what are you telling me?" They said "we need to shut the economy down." And that led within a matter of a day or two to have a letter signed by over 100 CEOs running three national newspapers to say shut us down. The reason for that shutdown was actually driven by health care. Right? We don't have an economic crisis. We have an exogenous threat to the economy driven by health care. And so doing what we did has worked. Let's take, let's acknowledge that that shutdown has saved the health care system. The hospitals are, frankly speaking, very underutilised right now. We're going to have more ventilators and you know, what to do with. The ICU system is fine. The beds are available. That doesn't mean let's flock to the hospitals. What it means is the goal of saving the health care system worked, point one. Point two is and this is really key for the future. We hope that individuals and businesses have used that time to develop good behaviour, good practises on what it means to coexist with COVID. We are going to be... No one knows. I mean, anybody who pretends they know and even from the eternal optimist to, you know, weeks or months away to the pessimist, which was never going to happen. Nobody knows. What we do know is we have to coexist with COVID for a period of time and we also know that we cannot live the way we're living now; and we certainly can't financially afford from a government perspective to keep this going endlessly. So we've got to figure out how to get back out there. And to me, the conditioning that we did with people on washing your hands and using sanitizer or, you know, putting on a mask and keeping social distancing, respiratory etiquette, sneeze in your elbow. All of those things we're hoping has helped individuals, but more importantly, the businesses who create that infrastructure, including governments and others to say "It's safe." Because think of what we're saying to Canadians. For 100 days, we've been telling them "There's a virus, it's dangerous, stay inside." And now we're pivoting to "There's a virus. It remains dangerous, but you need to come outside now." And so no wonder Canadians are stuck in item one and two right now. We've got to build awareness for them to get there. And that's where our focus currently is right now. Right. And that is on how do you build confidence? And so I invite your your participants to check out a site called Post Promise.com or Promesse d'après en français. And it's all designed to be a public confidence wordmark, that says, "how can I get you out of your house to go to Tim Hortons, to go to your dry cleaner, to go to get a haircut?" If, I forget flying somewhere, just get you out. How do we do that? And so that's what we're working on right now.
Taki: So before we get to day 102 and on, I want I want to give Hassan a chance to kind of go back to March 13th and tell us, Hassan, from your point of view, what's happened in these hundred days, what we've done well? What have we not done well? What surprised you? What hasn't surprised you? The Canada today versus the Canada of March 13th?
Hassan, we need you to hit your mute button, unmute button.
Hassan: I'm sorry.
Taki: You're still on mute.
Hassan: You OK now? You can hear me?
Hassan: Yeah. I think somehow the service are interrupting here somehow. When you look back at the last hundred plus days that we have gone through. I think there's a remarkable story to be told. What's most importantly, we made a lot of the right decisions and we're still evolving from this and learning from this, I think, entire COVID pandemic that we're dealing with. But more importantly, I think there's been a general consensus in the country and Canadians that all the things that government have asked them to do, they pretty well have complied with it. There've been minor irritants here and there, and we're learning from that. But we're really asking Canadians is to change what we used to do. We all took for granted. We can go have dinner with our friends. We can go out and do things together. And all of a sudden people are told to stay home. People now can't go out. You've got to wash your hands and you got to put a mask on can't be in very large groups, even if your family, your little bubble, don't bother doing that. I think Canadians have done a remarkable job in responding. But I also look at how our numbers are finally a little bit over 100,000 people have been infected, over 60,000 plus have recovered from their infection in this period. And I think a lot of that shows the country is cooperating with our political leadership to make sure we can do the right thing. Of course, the next part of all of this is going to be really difficult because it's easy for us to become complacent. And changing attitudes is not an easy thing. We learned through a lifetime how to behave and then we're asked now to unlearn or to unpack some of that and leave it alone. I think it's going to be a huge challenge as the economy reopen. How do we keep people safe to want to go back to work? And more importantly, how do we prevent them from getting infected? And this is going to be a huge challenge because there is the message from our public health officials, what we should do. But when we get into the workplace, I think is a different reality. They're governed in a different way and of course, workers are extremely worried. We hear from our members constantly about... Worried about their safety, worried about getting health. And not all of them, of course, are in the same dilemma. Their health, are sometimes are in more challenging situations. So we're going to have to take a lot of care. But I think what our government have to continue to do is build on the goodwill, how we can continue to grow the economy without going backwards. And one of the things that I think is the next, the next part of all of this has to be done. I think we will have to make it mandatory for every Canadian that wants to go to the public that you have to wear a mask; because if we don't do that, we are going to risk unnecessarily infecting other Canadians and, of course, repeating the challenges that we just came out of. The last point I would make in regard to this, I think there's been a lot of cooperation, both with governments, business and labour and other elements of society. And I think we need that goodwill if we're going to continue to work for the next, possibly year, to this crisis to ensure we can rebuild the economy and get Canadians back performing the kind of things that were doing before the pandemic hit us.
Taki: And so you're both really eager to talk about kind of the post hundred days, so I'll take you there, but I want to spend one more moment or two on the hundred days. And the hundred days have been extraordinary in that they've completely changed the way we live. It's the public crisis of our lifetimes and hopefully it will be the public crisis of our lifetimes and it won't be eclipsed by something else. So in these hundred days, what have you kind of learned as a lesson? What's kind of something that you're going to take away from this in terms of, you know what, "thank God we fill in the blank government." "Thank God, we fill in the blank the country." "Thank God we fill in the blank labour or business did the following to respond as a kind of a crisis more generically than a health crisis, because in our next crisis, it's shown me that we can do A, B and C." Because our next crisis might not be a health care crisis. It might be a tornado, might be a flood, it might be a war. It might be a currency devalue. Like what are some of the things, one or two things that kind of you've learned from this as a lesson, as a crisis lesson that you're pleased to see? Goldy?
Goldy: Well, I think the first thing is, thank God we had the ability to put a floor on the collapse for individuals because that's when society falls apart. All right. Anarchy comes from people who are desperate to eat, pay their rent, pay their mortgage, take care of their kids. You know, for the most part, the government's response to put a floor on the collapse of individuals so that they could eat and have the basic essentials. We shouldn't underestimate the financial capacity, and government after governments bringing a proper management of the economy, gave us in terms of capacity to do what we've been able to do. So I'm very, very grateful for that. I'm also extremely grateful for the digital infrastructure. You know, I say it was a tossup between banks and Telcos who Canadians beat the hell out of before the virus, you know, in terms of their punching bags. Well, I don't hear a lot of people complaining about their Telcos any time in the last hundred days. I mean, just look, we've got two thousand people on this thing. We've been using it regularly. We have good infrastructure in Canada. I think we can make it better. And I think that's one of the things that that comes out of this. And if I can just sneak in off the flip side of this, and maybe it'll be a subject of a broader conversation, because I know Hassan and I, we're both very, very proud Canadians. And I often say that that requires me to be like a proud parent. I should be able to offer tough love on where we can be better. And I think that one of the things that we experience as businesses is and I and I say it, acknowledging what Hassan said about Fed/Prov has never worked as well or premiers and prime minister. And there's a lot of good things going on over there. But from a business perspective, what I hear from my CEOs and it's been a source of great frustration is there are times where we're more European Union than a country. The lack of clarity of definition of essential worker or essential services really disrupted business, really disrupted supply chains and created job losses where there didn't need to be job losses and stuff. So we want to see the country come out of this having learned some of those lessons and get even better than we are.
Taki: So, Goldy, if I could if I could kind of more generalise your lessons. Is it fair to say kind of... because you're talking about CERB, you're talking about something that the government did almost immediately. You're talking about something that the government did kind of in a bold way within days. And one of the things that CERB has done is, it's basically bought us time. As you said, it gave a floor to everybody and it said "While we figure out what's going on, this will let people kind of eat and pay their rent and pay their mortgage and like kind of buy us time to get to the kind of the next stage." So I think a couple of big lessons there, kind of act decisively, buy time and kind of don't solve the problem all in one big chunk. Hassan, are you still with us?
Hassan: Sorry I lost you guys there for a minute, I'm here.
Taki: There we are. Hassan, what's kind of your lesson for, from these 100 days?
Hassan: Well, I think...
Taki: That you wanted to share with public service.
Hassan: Probably about three things. I think, like Goldy, I think the government certainly got it right. Put millions of Canadians who didn't know what their next paycheque was going to come from, and I think that gave people some security and the ambivalence and the worry that normally will come without having to figure out what system was going to assist them. I think also since then, of course, the adaptability of the government to ensure the programmes that he had ruled out while they didn't get it right initially, they had to continue to make adjustment and be informed by what others were sharing with them. How they were able to do that and make the programmes more resilient so they can reach people, but also assist people in businesses at the same time. I think that shows a remarkable desire to listen to other voices that may not be in government at the end of the day. And I truly want to compliment the public service. None of this is possible without their ability to help the government deliver to Canadians what are essentially some really, I think, important programmes that is holding this economy together. And I think that challenge will remain as we continue to evolve into this. How do we do that? We never reach a capacity we were expected to and more importantly, the system performed extremely well. But it also highlighted, I think, for Canadians that we're going to have to do a better job, we failed our seniors in this country. In a tremendous way unfortunately, we need to be better prepared with, of course, the necessary support for frontline workers who would need that support. Of course, the moment of a crisis and think the other stuff we can learn from here. I also think that the province desire to work with the federal government, not knowing what all the answers might be and how they can better provide these programmes to help this work, but also the population of the same time.
Taki: I think if I could generalise a little bit, kind of, your lessons Hassan, I think one of them would be that it's important to listen and of course, to react quickly. I think if when historians are looking back on this period and kind of judging what the government did right and what the government did wrong, I hope people remember that the government kind of announced a plan A at the beginning and then a couple of days later, it kind of said "No, we're not doing all these different–we're just kind of focusing on these two programmes." And that was really kind of the humility of listening because, you know, people who think they know with finality in the early days of a crisis what the solutions are, I think those are the most dangerous kind of drivers, because at the beginning, you really do need humility. You really do need to listen. You really do need to of course react because something like this has never happened before. There is no playbook. And if you come out with a prescription that you think, here's our hundred day plan and we're not deviating from that, I think that's an important lesson for people to, to internalise in the public service. A second one, if I could generalise from something I think you guys have both kind of said, you both talked about a little bit about Fed/Prov tensions. You both talked a little bit about the institutions of Canadian federalism and about hospitals. I think it's fair to generalise, to say in a crisis, generally speaking, those pre-existing irritants or those pre-existing weaknesses, they don't get worse. They don't get better. Sometimes you can mask a pre-existing weakness in the first couple of days or the first couple of weeks of a crisis by throwing money at it or by throwing energy at it or by throwing attention at it. But the best way, I think to really face a crisis is to be prepared for anything at any time. Like, to have good broadband, to have good connectivity, to have a stable financial system, to have a good balance sheet. Don't kind of wait for a crisis to kind of think "Oh, we're all going to rise to the occasion." We've seen kind of the governments that have been better prepared for these things going in have dealt with the crisis, and governments that have been less prepared on these things sink. Same with corporations, too, like corporations that went into this with good kind of balance sheets, good modern production capacities, etc. And same with individuals, kind of like people who are financially kind of taking care of the base before they kind of rent or lease the nine hundred dollar a month car. So you're both really eager to talk about Canada post-pandemic or the next phase of the pandemic. So let's start a little bit... We've been talking about social trends with the CERB and with Canadians and how nice we've been and how deferential we've been to governments, is the deference going to continue? Is... we've seen in other countries, we've seen kind of people say, "You know what, I kind of had it with this. I didn't get sick. My grandmother didn't get sick. I'm not wearing a mask. Let's get on with this." Are we... In some countries, we've seen what some people describe as kind of "From Compliance to Defiance." What are some of the things that that worry you guys is we kind of roll into day 103, day 105, 120. What are some of the pitfalls that you see ahead if we don't act wisely? Hassan?
Hassan: Well, I think one of the challenges that we still face, even though we've kept our infection rate fairly low, if we're not careful, it wouldn't take us long. We're looking at our friends to the south and we're seeing the infection rate rise at a level that is just mind boggling, in my view. I think we as Canadians got to do everything humanly possible to avoid getting into that. It is fair to say that it's summer. People are, of course, very much been cooped up and now they're allowed to go out. And I think we have to as governments, but also business and labour and other organizations can prevent infection from increasing, but we have to do certain things to make sure that happens. Similarly, of course, as the economy starting to reopen. Of course, we want people to go back to work because it's the right thing to do. But at the same time, we have to assure them of their safety. And that worry is still there. I hear from my members constantly about the worrying about their safety. They might have someone in their families whose health is not perfect and they are worried should they catch COVID, what impact that might have in their family. And I think employers need to spend more time, I think, reinforcing that they are doing everything to protect the workers coming back. And of course, the bigger challenge is going to be how do we reboot the economy? In the near future that's going to help, of course, get more people back to work, but also get us into a place where we know that we're getting back to a certain level of capacity by now in December. And then what stage do we look at? Where are we going to be in January going forward? Of course, none of these is... we've got a playbook. We're dealing with a neighbour that we have to be very worried about reopening to our borders. And if we should, then, of course, people coming here that are highly infected, we are simply going to be in an extremely difficult relationship in the near future is going to be a huge challenge for us, and I think the last part that would make this.
Hassan: Go ahead, sorry.
Taki: Oh, no, no, go ahead Hassan.
Hassan: Yeah, the last point I would make is, is the importance of the I think the government to continue to listen to many voices as they continue to roll out policy in the next stage. We know the CERB is coming to an end at the end of August. And of course, you know, we have to put our programmes in place to help Canadians who are not going to go back to work without keeping and making people ambivalent and worried about what's going to happen to them at the end of August.
Taki: Goldy, how do you, what do you see as some kind of important things where have to do or avoid to keep kind of the confidence of Canadians as we start the next phase of COVID, living with COVID? You're on mute my friend.
Goldy: You started talking about deference and defiance. Well, that's not the Canadian way, as we all know. And so I'm not losing sleep over that issue. In fact, all of the polling suggests we have the opposite problem. We have been overly stigmatised and traumatised by things. And we need to, like, find a balance between where we have been and where we need to go. And I say that not as someone just eager to get everybody out there and let's rock and roll with the economy, because it's not that. The number one job of any employer always has been, always will be the safety and well-being of their employees. And so this is an area where employers are doing everything that they can, you know, and part of what they're saying now is, "Trust us", you know, "We've earned our bona fides." You know, these essential workers include essential workers like airlines who went around the world picking up Canadians and repatriating them to be home. So they weren't stuck somewhere for an unknown period of time. Like trust us to get it right, to get the economy going, because these programmes are, Hassan has pointed out, our fear is that concern we face about defiance and anger, it will emerge for people who are going to fall because the programmes are not going to be available and the best programme is a job. Right? Let's try and create the economic conditions in which we can resuscitate the economy and bring it back to life. We have to remember 85% of the economy functioned through all of this, right? The last majority of it is a work from home and it all functioned. But the 15 percent that took a hit took catastrophic hits, from small businesses to large businesses, right? I mean, we, I mentioned the airlines, transportation, tourism, retail energy sector; for a variety of different reasons, those sectors. But what about the supply chain? We worry as much about the supply chain. In fact this Post-promise campaign is more about small business to say how do I instil confidence in you and you coming back? So I think we have to go the other direction. I think we have to pull back on the daily announcements. I think we have to pull back on the transition from fear to hope. We can do this. We can live with COVID. We've proven that we listen to our authorities and can follow rules. I agree with my friend. I can't even get my own colleagues to agree with me on this. But where a darn mask, right? I mean, when you talk to my members who are in Asia, they will tell you, culturally, they believe that mask wearing has been one of the biggest top two reasons that people have returned to work at 80% levels in buildings. 80% because they have a culture of mask wearing inside. So I'm worried about the fact that when we restart our economy, I've talked to, you know, government department, deputies and others, they've all told me that that safe restart means 23 to 35% of return. OK, well, that might, that's not going to work because the canteen downstairs can't survive if the building only has 25% of its people there, you know, the Uber traffic drops and all that. So we've got to figure out. I'm going to add one last thing Taki if I can. And that is that all of this speaks to the gap that I think that needs to be filled the most, and that is testing, testing, testing. More testing, more tracking, more tracing is what is necessary for Canadians to feel safe, that if something were to happen when they go out, someone's going to be able to call them and say "hey, look, I have on my phone downloaded the Alberta Trace app." You know, there's a national one coming soon. Let's not have thirteen of those. But let's have a way in which to communicate with Canadians how to be safe, stay safe. And if you are exposed, what to do.
Taki: Yeah, there's, you make a very good point in directly about it's not just about reopening the economy, but at some point it's about reopening the economy at a certain scale. Like there... most industries are built on, you know, 90% utilisation rates. I know I grew up, you know, my parents owned a little restaurant. And if it was half full, you know, you barely covered kind of your fixed costs, let alone your operating costs. And there's not a lot of airlines that are based on 20 percent capacity. So the economics of reopening are going to be very challenging because reopening in a public health sense is one thing, but reopening in a sense that will allow businesses to sustain current balance sheets or to sustain their current cost structure, that's a whole other thing. So that's going to be a challenge. We've talked a little bit about CERB. Some people have looked at CERB and have said, you know what? Over the years we've been talking about having a universal income or a guaranteed annual income. CERB is not quite that. But it might be our first big experiment, even if it's tied down toward something like a universal or a guaranteed annual income. What are your thoughts, from each of you, not so much on CERB but on the notion of a universal guaranteed income? Hassan?
Hassan: Well, I know one thing we have to do better, because what this COVID-19, . People, of course, who are really struggling.
Taki: We're not getting you Hassan. Maybe I'll go to Goldy while your internet catches up. Goldy, what do you, what do you, kind of give us your reflections on something like a universal guaranteed income?
Goldy: I think we have to be...
Hassan: You know, considered to be essential, a better salary. And we say these people are important, they're heroes, we have to at the same time, we know they're not. I think a guaranteed income is something that, of course, being talked about. The big challenge with a guaranteed income is the discussion and the how do we negotiate this with the province. But I think if you had a guaranteed income, obviously there are issues to be worked out and we need to figure out how we could do that. It will not, in my view, harm the goodwill of people about work and the work ethic. I think it would complement that. But more importantly, how do we work with the province to get there? I think it certainly points that we can do better and we need to do better because we know there are far too many people who are not doing well despite how well the economy was doing prior to COVID-19. And I think it is certainly exposes that we got to do a better job.
Goldy: Just to build off that. Look, I think that that what we in the business community would particularly want to see is investments in productivity enhancement and improvements, right? So Hassan and I wrote a piece, for example, on child care, you know, pretty powerful when he and I write a piece that says child care is an important investment in people, but also in the economy and in productivity. And so for us about building back better is how do we grow this economy? How do we add to the pie and how do we help those that truly can't help themselves? We don't have a point of view just yet on, you know, UBI or anything else at this stage. Our concern more is the current environment may create a belief that, well, government's got me. So whatever it is, government is going to somehow going to be able to pay for it. If I've got a problem, they've got a program. That's completely unrealistically unsustainable. We have got to develop a pro-growth strategy so that that rising tide can lift all boats argument, right? I don't take any issues with the points about acknowledging the work of essential workers and programmes and benefits and all of those things. But someone has to pay, and if the thinking is business is going to pay or we're going to get this all back by taxes, I would be cautious of that because the mobility that the capital and talent have today is exponential. And I will tell you, it's only 100 days raw but already the aggressiveness with which countries are wooing talent and wooing business is very real. So we have to make sure that as Canadians, and I say this as a very proud one, that we don't return to regularly scheduled programming in Canada with squabbles between East and West and French and English and business and labour and small business and big business. No, this moment, I mean you know, you can't go through a panel without hearing that, you know, 'don't let a crisis go to waste' line. So there you've heard it. Don't let a crisis go to waste. We should make sure that we come out of this much more ambitious, much more focused on what our problems were. Because one thing I will just say, maybe it'll lead to other points is the pre COVID sorry, the COVID issues have not just exposed the crisis related to health care. I think it's underscored the need for us to get back to and do much better on, much bigger, you know, the issues of immigration and trade and investment, child care, pharma care, climate, indigenous relationships. None of those issues disappear because of COVID. In fact, what they've shown is we need to make sure we get to those sooner, quicker, and with some, some focus on how to fix those issues. We've had it easy for too long. It's going to be a lot rougher ride as we go forward otherwise.
Taki: One of the, and that's the next segment to our next question, which is our next theme, Globalisation. So one of the reasons why this hit and impacted us so suddenly is because everybody's connected to everything. When you buy an automobile or a computer, even services now are connected like that. You know, there's like 18 different companies in the supply chain for your car. 150 for the computer and globalisation. One of the things we've seen is we've seen huge, huge plus sides to globalisation, but we've also seen negative sides to globalisation. One of the big dangers of COVID, it seems to me, is just as we've kind of had kind of a... we can call it almost a blind thirst for globalisation. I think some companies, some sectors, some countries, some populations are going to have a blind bias to de-globalisation, to start putting up walls, to start saying, "you know what? Your interests kind of stops here and my interest goes there and we're going to potentially start reversing some of the things that we've seen in the economy." Talk to us a little bit about that. Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Have we had too much globalisation? Are we in danger kind of now of moving, too? And you've certainly seen it from our friends and neighbours to the south. There's this America first call. There's a there is a "us vs the rest." So, talks to us a little bit of a globalisation. Hassan, how do you see globalisation kind of today and how do you see globalisation tomorrow?
Hassan Yussuff: I believe that some of the things that we're going to have to deal with and what this COVID-19 certainly have exposed, our dependence on other countries for essential supply. In a moment of a crisis, we cannot allow ourselves to be held hostage by another country ever again. I think we have to resolve this once and for all, as a nation, as how are we going to deal with it. Canada is, of course, a trading nation. We rely upon other countries, of course, to trade with because that's how we grow our economy at the end of the day. But I think there will be enormous shift coming out of this COVID-19. Individual countries' approach, of course, continent's approach and of course our friends in the United States. And we have to be very conscious politically in Canada how we are going to, of course, be aggressive about what kind of economy we want to build. I think some of the weaknesses have been exposed. We certainly have the capacity for a lot of added value. Where do we want to be in 5 or 10 or 15 years from now? The relationship we have anchored ourselves with for the longest period in our history is our friend to the south, which we know we can't rely upon anymore. we're threatened with sanctions on aluminium and I think I think Canadians in general are of the view that we're going to have to figure out what this relationship look like and who do we really want to deepen this relationship with as a nation. And that is going to mean we're going to do some things differently than we haven't done in the past. And I think there has to be some general agreement. But as a country, we can't close our doors to trade. We have always been a trading nation, we have grown as a result of that. But I think we also are going to have to spend some effort to think on how do we improve the supply chain around the world? How as workers who are working in that supply chain are also taken care of? And more importantly, who can we rely upon in a moment of a crisis, as we have seen during this crisis that there's a lot of things that exposed the (speech inaudible) as a democratic, free country, we can't allow those vulnerabilities to tell ourselves that we are hostage of a country. So there will be changes and I think as Canadians we need to, of course, be reticent to the fact that some things will change. But I think we will still remain a trading nation for the most part, because that's who we are as a country and we're reliant upon that trade to grow our economy and to create millions of jobs in this country.
Taki: Goldy you give us your thoughts on globalisation, kind of where we are today globally and where you see us going global?
Goldy: Well, look, if there's three things to Canada that we can't mess with: immigration, investment and trade. You take away one of those legs of the stool is.
Taki: Did you say Immigration..?
Goldy: Three things, Investment, foreign investment, right? And our investment in the country itself, and obviously trade. If we take away one of those three things, the country's not the same. We're a natural resource economy, but we're also very much a human resource economy. Look, we're very exposed and we're seeing right now the narrative that you describe of, you know, on shoring, close shoring, near shoring, continentalism, you know, the breaking down into blocks and so forth. What I think we need to do is two things. One is secure the neighbourhood, make the neighbourhood strong. July 1, we're going to be passing the USMCA deal. We're going to have the silly aluminium tariff battle probably going on at the same time, which is kind of odd. But, you know you know why it's happening. So I don't need to tell you that. But secure the neighbourhood. We saw with the 3M masks, for example, the idea that the president could say you are not to send those masks anywhere else. Well, that's absurd. And so the fact that we're able to trying to put Mexico, Canada and the United States into a "Look, let's look after ourselves as much as we can." Especially on some of the things that Hassan talked to, but let me also say that it's very easy to say we're going to diversify, we're going to move away from China, we're going to move away from the places. There are 1400 parts that go into a ventilator. I'm pretty sure Canada doesn't have all 14 of those. But I'm pretty sure North America doesn't have all of those 1400 parts and may not be able to get them for some time. I'm told that in every antibiotic there is at least... 90% of the antibiotics contain something from China, 90% of it. So we've got to realise that the world needs to continue to trade. We need to secure those supply chains. I think for Canadian business and for Canada what it means is take advantage of the deals that we've already got. The TPP, CDA, you know, USMCA, are the foundation on which we can really diversify and build out our trade policy, which, of course, impacts our foreign policy as well.
Taki: So one of the... I'm going to turn now to a couple of questions from our online audience and the one that is intriguing me the most because we kind of covered a few of them indirectly. Here's one from the audience: "I'm concerned about businesses reopening and passing on COVID costs to the consumer as a kind of a COVID tax. Can you comment on this practise?
Goldy: My understanding is the anecdotal examples of where it's happened has happened largely in small businesses who say, I have no way of recovering this. You know, I'm being forced to buy Plexiglas that I've never had to buy before or, you know, other things that I'm required to do. So I can be empathetic to it, but it can be a cash grab. What we're worried about in general at a more macro level is the idea that there will be a federal COVID tax of some kind to repay the deficit and the debt. That would be suicidal right now, all right? The last thing the economy needs is more taxes. In fact, I just had a conversation with our High Commissioner in London who was telling me that the speculation in the UK is that they're considering a reduction in the VAT right? To stimulate spending, to stimulate growth. So I think we have to realise that what we're going to be coming out of here right now is going to require a lot of oxygen and adrenaline and blood in the economy to get it to go, especially with the scale issues that I talked about earlier. So taxes would be punitive and suicidal in many ways and might discourage those customers to go into those premises, which is the exact opposite outcome that we want.
Taki: Hassan, should we pay, should we be paying more for stuff to ensure that the people at Loblaw's and the people at Metro and the people at Shoppers Drug Mart are able to have kind of a higher standard of living? Should we... one of the things that globalisation has been driving is cost efficiencies and cost savings. And one of that one of the consequences of that has been that we've been seeing kind of an income at the talent level soaring, but income below the kind of the highly skilled, university educated digital talent has not been keeping up, has been actually falling behind. Tell us a little bit about that from your perspective.
Hassan: Well, I think that what we've seen in regard to this pandemic, you know, those companies have had to offer their employees additional money during the crisis. As they said, it was a COVID bonus, two dollars an hour or so. Some places were offering and paying those workers to do their job. But I think the broader, you know, argument I would make is that that should be the norm. I mean, obviously, you want labour market policies to determine what the rate is going to be. I think but it does speak to again, many of these workers live pretty close to the bottom despite them working for a very successful change for the most part. And I think we're going to have to figure out if it's not minimum wage is just above that minimum wage. And many, many of our big cities, no workers can live on that, any place in this country right now. But we have to do better. We want this business to be successful, but we also want the workers to be successful. And by the way, these workers didn't hesitate during COVID-19 to come to work. They all went to work, even though they weren't making a lot of money. They risked their lives. And I think I think those employers need to be a little bit more thoughtful in this moment. And we need to figure out as a country how we can do better, because what is this underlying? What do you never thought about the grocery clerk? You never thought about the food delivery person, then a whole bunch of other people that were performing service. Had they not been there, I think we would experience this crisis in a very different way. So we have to focus on that. How do we do better in a public policy perspective to help those workers? Because, by the way, those workers are also consumers. The more money they have in their pocket, the more they're going to spend to grow the economy and to support their families at the same time. So we got to do a better job. I also believe that the issue of taxes is going to be a debate we're going to have to have in this country at some point, not immediately. In the near future we're going to have to figure out how are we going to pay to the debt we've accumulated. I think that should be a respectful conversation. What is it going to require for us to do that in a way that can help grow? We, I think we were in a good place, before this pandemic, fiscally, and I think that allowed us to do many of the things that we are doing right now. And I know I think governments know for a fact that we're going to have to recognise we're going to have to do something in the near future as to how we're going to find some consensus. But equally, I think what I don't want to see happen is people are going to start calling for austerity and firing people in the public sector, the people who have been helping us, getting through this crisis without recognising we're going to do more harm than good. Yes, we're going to have to pay off the debt and we need to do that in a way that doesn't harm the economy, but also doesn't disrupt the lives of people who are performing some of the essential service that we relied upon during this very important period.
Taki: Yeah, Goldy, do you worry about. I don't want to say inequality, but do you worry about income inequality, do you worry that the Canada that kind of we're in isn't the Canada that people used to know? And I know we're all kind of we're all immigrants. We're all children of immigrants. On this, on this call. I remember my father came to Canada in the mid 60s, uneducated, grade six and all he did was work really hard and after a couple of years, he had a house in Toronto. And after a few more years after that, his house was, in Toronto, it was paid off. You can't do that today as an uneducated grade six immigrant. Do you worry, do you and your members worry about inequality and especially income inequality?
Goldy: Yes, of course. You know, I think it speaks to social fabric that we talked about at the very top of the gathering here. The issue is, what are the solutions, right? Education. It's just recently announced finally, you know, we've modified the Ontario curriculum so that we can be getting a better education to give everybody a better chance at being able to get a job in the new economy. We still, in some ways, been teaching people the old stuff while the rest of the world has moved on. In Japan, you get AI, training and high school, in junior high school, you get, you're teaching AI now. Right. So I think the fact that we're catching up slowly and a lot of this has to do with our culture, you know, I think we've been a very we're a very lucky country and it's created a certain level of comfort and complacency that's allowed us to constantly remind ourselves how great we are by comparing ourselves to somebody else who's not so great. But this moment here is not about them. It's about us. And it's how do we do exactly what Hassan is saying, because we're using the same language. We must build back better. We must find a way to make the country stronger. The people stronger and the economy, stronger our concerns would come more on what the solutions are. So people think the solutions are bigger government, more programmes, tax. My concern is, is that that actually ends up being paid for by the middle class. Right. When all is said and done, I understand the lower income won't pay the tax. The other, the higher income will find a way not to pay it. And so it gets, it becomes a burden on the middle class, and we don't want that to happen. No political person wants that to happen. So I think job creation, education, ingenuity, addressing the costs of being in Canada, regulatory burdens, the complexities of dealing in a federation, we've got interprovincial trade barriers that are trapping four percent of our GDP. You know where that four percent of GDP could be going? Part of it could be going to helping social programmes, right? Helping modernise our long term care facilities. These kinds of things have to be paid for, and I believe that I've said it before, the rising tide, the more we can help bring prosperity to people, the more likely it is that we can help those that are at the other end of the spectrum, and especially those that, for whatever reason, can't help themselves. And also, I'm worried more about the solution, I don't disagree with the problem identification.
Goldy: I think we put him into a trance.
Hassan: Did we lose you there?
Taki: And I want to close with asking a couple of big philosophical questions. We're all talking to public servants in a way. I can say to you guys both to be public servants, and the fact that you're here with us today speaking to us is to me a bit of a testament that you are a public servant because we're kind of all in this together. Tell me a little bit about the Canada you want to see. We were talking before the, just before the broadcast that we figured out that between us, we're the parents of six children and they all are six daughters. So tell us a little bit about the Canada that we're all working towards to leave to collectively to our six daughters. What's the, what's the Canada that you want them to live in. Hassan?
Hassan: Well, the Canada that I still believe in is this inclusive Canada, the one that is generous and is caring and is kind. And of course, it offers immigrants and refugees a place to come and to be safe. I think that's the Canada that I came to. That's the Canada that I live in. But I think that in itself doesn't mean that Canada would always exist that way. I think all of us have to work harder and better as to how we continue to reinvent this Canada that I came to and that we are all part of, and I think that requires a tremendous amount of commitment to take on some of the challenges that we know are real in society. Not all of us have the good fortune of making it, despite the fact that we come here. I'm fortunate. I've always had a good job and for the most part, I've had a good life. But I know there's many people who don't. And I think some of the manifestations, we're seeing them, are First Nation people, who have been here forever, haven't done as well as they should. We know there's a certain segment within the community and the population are not doing. Our inner-city I think we're seeing far more challenges to how we bring communities together. We're dealing with the issue right now of systemic racism and how that impacts on certain other aspects. I think we can do a better job because I don't think any Canadian would disagree. We shouldn't tackle those problems, but I think we can't do it individually, we have to do it collectively. Part of that, of course, is the need for us to work together to figure out how we are going to improve on that. We as a country, we'll always going to be relying on immigrants, immigrants to come here to grow the economy, but also to grow the population. If we're going to continue to do that, I think we also have to do a better job because we are not the only country competing for immigrants. We have to give people a reason why they want to come here. And more importantly, I think our governments need to work better. We bring highly educated people here and then, of course, we struggle as to whether or not they can even work in their field, much less whether they end up. You know, there's still a saying in Toronto, "We have got the most educated taxi drivers on the planet." And it's not just a glib comment that people make, it's a reality of people who we know are doctors and surgeons, they're physicians and pharmacists, the list goes on. We have to do better. I also think that for my young daughter growing up in this Canada, she's bilingual. One of her parent was... came here as a 3 year old from Korea, her father is Guyanese and of course, she's got all this reality of what her life look like. She's a bilingual kid that's going to grow up in Canada where she has expectations. She's very conscious about the fact of what her outlook of life is going to be and her ethnicity, how that's going to. So I think we have to do a better job, but I also believe as we tackle this problem, we have to tackle this problem more as a society, not just as government, because government on their own could be well-intentioned, but also recognising that we have to work with each other. We also have to ensure this country remains a hopeful place. We live beside a giant called the United States. And I think we as Canadians have pride ourselves that we have evolved in a different way. This pandemic is a classic example for us to show that we have done better health care system. Our education system, while it's not perfect, all both can be improved. And I think at the end of the day, what my effort has been and with Goldy and others in this country is that we have to improve some of the things that underpin the strength of this economy. You know, when you retire, are you going to have a decent income so you can look after yourself. When you get sick, you have a health care system you can rely on to take care of you. And do we want our kids to have good education? If we want, we also have to invest in the education system to make sure that system and the teachers who are performing that service day in and day out are going to help that. But equally, we have to ensure those who are struggling like aboriginal people, black people in this country, other communities, we also have to do a better, far better as how do we help to end that divide that still exists in this country, because in 2020, we can't just be preaching and pointing fingers at others. We have to look in the mirror and say we can do better. And I believe, my hope is that we can do better because this certainly COVID is expose us to some of these problems more clearly. We can't close our eyes and say we're going to go back to the norm that we used to be from the past.
Taki: What's the Canada you want for your kids?
Goldy: He's a tough act to follow. But let me say, what I've been saying is, if you want to honour the lives of those lost, make sure you make life better for those that have lived, particularly those as Hassan pointed out, have been dubbed heroes. Well, let's treat them like heroes throughout the country. And that gets a lot of people that fall into that category and it's not socioeconomic necessarily. It's the, it's the skill sets. It's the experience. It's the opportunities that they've brought. I've always defined Canada as an experiment. You know, it's a pretty special place when guys, two people like Hasan and I, can get to the positions that we've gotten to. There's not a lot of places in the world where that could have happened or would have happened. And so Canada is an experiment, but it's an experiment that can that has a history where it has failed from time to time as well, in some cases continues to fail, for example, our indigenous people. We've got to do better. We've got to stop looking around and feeling good about ourselves because America is in chaos or the UK is in chaos. I don't care. I don't live there. I'm far more interested in what can we do to make Canada better. We need to mature our political discourse and our social discourse from what I call small ballism. You know, this, this idea, we spend our time fighting over little things because we have the luxury of being able to do so. Right. In other places, they're fighting for their very survival. We have the time to debate some of the things that we do, but it's time to get past our, you know, we got past our constitutional squabbles by just putting them into a box somewhere. But this interprovincial stuff that I've defined. Thirteen securities regulators, you know, the ongoing tensions between urban and rural Canada, I think is very real and very raw. The changes that are taking place here. We're not immune from global forces, polarisation our politics, right? And if there's one thing I'm very proud of is this, my father likes to say that Canadians are people of the radical middle. And I think our politics needs to find that centre again to reflect who we are as a people, which is progressive, moderate, centrist, proud of who we are, but not egomaniacs about it. People who aren't preachy around the world, but share our views and our values. So to encourage other countries to be more Canadian. I think we can provide tremendous leadership on the climate but I think it has to require us to reconcile the fact that we're a very prominent natural resource economy where people care about the climate, but are going to have to square that balance between environment and energy. So build on who we are. But I would say this and I say this with great respect, but the world is going to get more complicated. It's going to get very complicated. China-US situation is going to continue. It doesn't matter what happens in November, right. And my message to us as Canadians is, you know, eyes wide open, be a little bit shrewder, get past the nice part and understand that the world is a complicated place. We have to compete aggressively. You don't have to compromise who you are and the values that you have. But we need to be much more ambitious and act with much more urgency if this great experiment called Canada is going to succeed for the next 150 years.
Taki: Well said, sir, one of the great privileges of the job that I have is I get to actually get in the classroom and teach senior public servants. And the one thing I teach them over and over and over again is exactly what you both just said, which is the Canada that we have, we can't take for granted. We have to work to keep it. The Canada that we had that we inherited was because we had two oceans, was because we had a relatively peaceful world, was because the world wasn't connected. If we don't work hard to keep our Canada, we're going to lose our Canada. And I think that's something that we all, whether we're in business and labour in government, it's something that we have to remember and keep working towards. Gentlemen, the fact that I could have a representative of Canada's biggest corporations and a representative of Canada's labour movement together for an hour and not only be respectful with each other and to be respectful with ideas and to talk about ideas, it is a testament not only to you, but a testament to the strength of the our polity of Canada. And I'm very, very honoured that you spent this hour with us. And thank you for being friends of the public service. And please, please come and talk to us again, because leadership is more than just about deputy ministers and ministers. Leadership demands civil society. And thank you for your role in civil society.
Hassan: Thank you for having us.
Goldy: All the best of everybody, be well.