It costs to care. Not caring costs more.
As the so-called Freedom Convoy here and the war in Ukraine abroad are making manifest in real time, we each have the choice to emphasize self-interest or solidarity, in hundreds of daily decisions.
This newsflash is also the lesson of living with two years of choices with life-and-death consequences in a global pandemic.
If we haven’t figured it out yet, the future is ours to choose, individually and collectively; but what will we choose? Especially now that we know just how much my health depends on your health, and my security depends on your security. Our behaviour matters, and not just to ourselves.
Takeaway, learned the hard way: if you want better outcomes, show up to care, actively.
One proxy measure of active caring is Statistics Canada's most recent statistics on the economy. The Care Economy (which I measure by combining the health, social assistance, and education sectors, though it could include more) accounts for a growing share of the total economy. It was 12.3% of GDP in December 2019. By December 2021, it was 12.6% of GDP. We spent $8 billion more on care, mostly on health. Well, sure, in a pandemic you spend more on hospitals, doctors, drugs, vaccines, and tests.
We don't yet know how much of that money went to people or profits in the Care Economy, but we do know that we probably spent more than we needed to because of the way we handled the pandemic.
The aftermath of the occupation of Ottawa left residents and all Canadian taxpayers with a bill of hundreds of millions of dollars, and many other costs that can’t be counted.
The devastation of the war, in Ukraine and elsewhere, has costs higher than any ledger can represent to rebuild lives.
The lesson, again, is that our behaviour has a cost; and that cost is greater or smaller depending on how we choose to care for one another and for the planet. We will pay, in any case.
Which brings me to how much that cost will be, and whether that can be foreseen.
It’s budget season. We don’t know when the federal budget will be tabled, but Quebec will table their budget on March 22. Ontario’s will be delivered by April 30 (unless they change the law again). Both Ontario and Quebec have elections this year (respectively, June 2 and October 3). Municipal elections will also be held this year in Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island.
Here are a few questions about the Care Economy and the future of our individual and shared well-being you could ask your elected officials, and those who would like to represent you.
At the moment in Canada our relative peace and prosperity is not shared equitably. We all pay the price.
How will we use what we’ve got to build for the future that invests in our shared well-being?
The foundation is care.
The Atkinson Fellow on the Future of Workers is supported by the Atkinson Foundation. Find more information here.