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COLUMN: Post-COVID changes are in the wind for us

McLeod Brian-mug
Columnist Brian McLeod
By now, I’m sure most of us have experienced the short-term effects of the COVID-19 virus, including social distancing, face masks and gloves, closures of schools and businesses, and the tragedy of so many fellow citizens who did not survive this pandemic. This list is much longer than what I’ve provided, but I’m sure you already understand these short-term issues. What I’m focused on is the longer term issues that will need to be addressed, including:

• The future of education: when (if) classes resume in September, it appears that things will be far different than the previous model. However, I’ve heard a long list of possible solutions and, quite frankly, I have not seen anything resembling something that would really work. Long-distance education may be a partial solution, but here again, while a few institutes do a good job at this method, most of the traditional educational organizations have created a garbled, scrambled mess that is totally unworkable on a sustainable basis.

• The future of child raising: if education changes, then the issue of child raising will likely be dramatically changed. One of the proposed education solutions, for example, calls for split schedules for children – but how will families with both parents working manage to integrate these split schedules into their already hectic schedules? Only time will tell.

• The future of employment: many jobs will return and resemble what they were before this virus hit. But office work may find a need for a whole new model.  Some companies have adjusted well to employees working from home, but, again, others have generated little more than fiascos. Decreased office space demand will also have a profound effect on commercial real estate markets.

• The future of shopping: while Amazon (and others) had already modified the shopping model before COVID-19, the conversion to this model was boosted, dramatically, by the virus. What the future holds is hard to tell, but, again, commercial real estate could be dramatically impacted.  

• The future of government: one of the most disturbing aspects of the virus has been the apparent mismanagement of emergencies in so many federal, provincial, state and municipal governments, and the outright lying that many of these government officials have practised. In Alberta, I think we’ve been luckier that most with a reasonable government that acted professionally. Elsewhere, however, I have often warned that if the citizens believe they are being lied to, they will quickly become ungovernable. A further example from the U.S. shows huge crowds of people questioning whether state governments have the authority to eliminate civil rights guaranteed under their constitution. Again, I suspect big changes in government may be in the wind.

I conclude with the following. Nearly 60 years ago, Bob Dylan wrote and recorded The Times They Are A-Changin' and included this verse:

Your old road is rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'