Our future rests on ‘trust’

Written by Brenda Schimke

Countries around the world will not come out of this pandemic equally.

Poor countries will lose millions to the virus, leaders in autocratic countries will do what is best for them—lockdown or let thousands of unwanted citizens die—and outcomes in liberal democracies will vary depending on trust in government and strength of government institutions.

The three Asian democracies—Japan, South Korea and Taiwan—acted quickly and succinctly when the outbreak occurred.

Their success to date is because they built capacity after the SARS pandemic ensuring adequate stockpiles of medical necessities for the next pandemic.

Their decisions and actions were grounded in science and their messaging to the public was transparent and apolitical.

Most importantly, the people trust their governments and their public institutions are strong.

Countries in Europe whose trust in their governments and their government institutions are high—Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Germany—also are flattening the curve more quickly.

Even Germany, who was later than others in issuing a public distancing shutdown, is doing well compared to many other European countries.

Albeit, the consequence of the Swedish government’s risky gamble to not social distance may squander their people’s long-held trust in government.

Former Governor General, David Johnson in his book, ‘Trust, Twenty Ways to Build a Better Country’, shares a conversation he had with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

“She was amazed that the many powerful centrifugal forces within our country— language, region, race and religion— had not caused Canada to scatter into a thousand pieces.”

Johnson responded, “that Canada’s largely inclusive politics and economics had created a national atmosphere of trust that helped Canadians of all regions, languages and interests to curb their passions and check their disputes.”

The majority of Canadians, even though too often inundated by American thought, think more as a collective and less as individuals.

There is less political frothing in Canada, stronger government institutions and clearly defined responsibilities between different levels of government.

As such, the federal government, provincial and territorial governments, and opposition members can and are working well together through this pandemic.

Economically, our federal government focussed first on supporting individuals, then helping businesses of all types and sizes.

Our government continues to revise and adjust programs on an almost daily basis as they receive feedback about individuals or groups who have yet to fit into a rescue program.

Ongoing, the government is working with major industry groups to develop financial aid packages that will assist and enable a smoother re-start of our economy.

The government put no maximums on program expenditures—eliminating the chaos of entities and individuals competing for emergency help.

The national media keeps harping on what safeguards are in place that will catch the cheaters.

As Prime Minister Trudeau reminded us, the vast majority of Canadians are trustworthy, not cheaters. In a pandemic, serving the many quickly is more important than adding red tape to catch the few.

Public health experts are warning that life isn’t going to magically return in a month or two and probably will never return to the way it was pre-pandemic.

Singapore is finding out how hard it is to re-open without a vaccine.

Canada’s future rests on trust— trust that the vast majority of Canadians will do what is right through this crisis and conversely trust that the government and opposition parties will do what is best for all people and all provinces and territories.

Until a vaccine is found, protection of oneself and those we love rests solely in the actions and support of everyone else.


B. Schimke

ECA Review

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.