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In Canada, masks will be ubiquitous, health care will go virtual and old, unhealthy habits will die – but around the world, we could be in for a coronavirus-created Cold War. Here are some of the ways experts and observers predict our lives will change

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Illustration by Murat Yükselir

How the pandemic will change ...Daily lifeProfessional lifeCities and homesPolitics

About this series: For its May 16 issue, The Globe and Mail assembled a newspaper-wide list of ways COVID-19 and its aftereffects will transform society. This is one of three parts of that series: The others focus on business and travel, arts and sports. Learn more at our Ø Canada Project about how this country is working toward a coronavirus-free future.

In our daily lives

We will wear masks

Globe columnist Elizabeth Renzetti lives in Germany, where masks are now mandatory in shops and on public transit, a fact that has made her increasingly uneasy.

After a subway ride with her teenage daughter and a discussion about their have different perspectives on it, she reflected in a column on how pro- and anti-mask attitudes are widening tribal divisions of class, culture, race and gender:

I will gladly wear a mask in public for as long as necessary – marking my inclusion in the reason-loving tribe of sheeple – but for purely selfish reasons I will be extremely glad to never have to wear one again, once we have a vaccine. ... This is not the world I want to live in. But this, for the moment, is the world we do live in.

We’ll greet each other differently

We may never shake hands again, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States. Some options for its replacement:


Knocking knuckles transmits far fewer bacteria than either a handshake or a high five, according to multiple studies.


The WHO’s director-general said this is his preferred greeting, a gesture also used by Prince Charles and Justin Trudeau.


A viral video demonstrated how some Chinese residents now tap toes, a move adopted by delegates at a recent OPEC summit.


Mercado Libre, a Latin American tech company, replaced the handshake in its logo with this gesture in the early days of the pandemic.


We may never shake hands again, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States. Some options for its replacement:


Knocking knuckles transmits far fewer bacteria than either a handshake or a high five, according to multiple studies.


The WHO’s director-general said this is his preferred greeting, a gesture also used by Prince Charles and Justin Trudeau.


A viral video demonstrated how some Chinese residents now tap toes, a move adopted by delegates at a recent OPEC summit.


Mercado Libre, a Latin American tech company, replaced the handshake in its logo with this gesture in the early days of the pandemic.


We may never shake hands again, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States. Some options for its replacement:



Knocking knuckles transmits far fewer bacteria than either a handshake or a high five, according to multiple studies.

A viral video demonstrated how some Chinese residents now tap toes, a move adopted by delegates at a recent OPEC summit.



The WHO’s director-general said this is his preferred greeting, a gesture also used by Prince Charles and Justin Trudeau.

Mercado Libre, a Latin American tech company, replaced the handshake in its logo with this gesture in the early days of the pandemic.


Helicopter parents will hover even closer

by Erin Anderssen

Hoping our experience with slowed-down family life might lead to simpler parenting? If only.

Recent history suggests that, when this is all over, economic worries and fears for our children’s futures will only push the parent-pressure gauge more into the panic zone.

Big events such as pandemics and recessions inevitably change society and that trickles down to the family rooms of the country.

After the Spanish flu of 1918, which devastated working-age parents and orphaned many children, the parenting philosophy pushed on traumatized mothers and fathers was cold, science-based and very hands-off, says Jennifer Traig, author of Act Natural: A Cultural History of Misadventures in Parenting.

The rise of helicopter parenting was a reasonable reaction to the recession of 2007, which widened income gaps, created an uncertain job market and made successful parenting more high stakes than ever.

While some experts have criticized this approach for hobbling a generation, many parents have bought in. U.S. research found that “intensive parenting” – the kind where academics are micro-managed and résumé-boosting extra-curriculars clog schedules – was seen as the optimal style by parents of all income brackets.

One international study found that, in countries with higher income inequality, parents instinctively stressed hard work over creativity. Norwegians, unsurprisingly, were pro-imagination. Americans were more shoulder-to-the-grindstone. Canada fell roughly in the middle.

Now, families face another deep recession and a new normal fraught with risk. Prepare for some next-level hovering.

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Donna McDougall leads a physically distanced line-dancing class for her neighbours in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood of Toronto.Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail/The Globe and Mail

We’ll abandon our networks and cling to the clique

By Leah Rumack

I’m thirsty for our next-door neighbours. I’ve been watching them for weeks – they of the perfect proximity and custodians of my nine-year-old’s two best friends – with mounting lust, hoping that when the moment comes, they choose us. “Will you,” they’ll say, as the music swells in the background, “be in our bubble?”

As the world starts to ease lockdowns, different versions of the expanded social bubble are emerging. New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador are allowing “double bubbles,” where members of two households can socialize. In Europe, several jurisdictions are floating a hypothetical number of 10 people. Choosing who’s in your bubble is complicated enough when it comes to family, but what if you’re choosing among your friends? The clique, in other words, is back.

“It’s actually easier for humans to abstain fully from something than it is to manage their consumption,” says Natasha Sharma, a psychologist and therapist in Toronto. “In this case it’s social contact – it’s less stressful to have zero cookies than trying to limit yourself to just three.”

So how do you manage social expectations when all the usual rules of interaction have been upended and a faux pas could have major health repercussions?

“We’ve never seen a sudden social change on this scale,” says etiquette expert Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute.

Because practicalities such as people’s romantic and family status, living situation and location are all major factors affecting their bubble-appropriateness – possibly more so than your actual closeness to any individual, Cheryl Harasymchuk, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, says this is an ideal time to focus on logistics so friends won’t take rejection (as) personally. “As long as there’s a good, clear reason, the person won’t internalize it as much,” she says.

Dr. Sharma says it’s important to make sure these friends know that just because they didn’t make the cut, it doesn’t mean you’re dropping them. “Making sure the person knows you still want to stay in touch, and then following it up with effort, takes the sting out it,” she says.

This is also the moment to be thoughtful about the needs of others, and that you might consider bowing out of the battle for a spot if someone else needs it more.

“I have two girlfriends who are single and they have been very alone,” Ms. Post says. “They would probably be the first ones I would be trying to see.”

If you’re the one who’s surprised to suddenly find yourself on the outside of a group, Dr. Harasymchuk suggests trying to change the way you’re thinking about the situation: “Rather than make it something personal – they don’t feel like I’m worthy enough or they don’t like me – look at it from a broader perspective and remind yourself that these are extreme conditions.”

While the rules of friendship groups are usually unspoken, Ms. Post says if there ever was a moment to have an official code of conduct, this is it. Because people interpret ever-evolving social distancing rules differently, decide in advance exactly how hardcore your group is going to be, including parameters of behaviour and regular check-ins on how those are going.

The most important thing to remember, Dr. Sharma says, is to remain flexible. As the pandemic ebbs and flows, the people we’ll be able to socialize with will probably expand and contract as regulations try to keep up with an unpredictable viral foe. “It’s only temporary,” she says, “so you don’t want to place too much emphasis on being in the Top 10 this minute.”

In our professional lives

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People in masks walk past a Toronto courthouse.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail/The Globe and Mail

Court hearings will become appointment viewing

by Paul Waldie

When lawyers for the Duchess of Sussex went before a judge in London recently to make arguments in her continuing legal battle with the tabloid press, the proceeding lacked the drama that usually surrounds Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. That was largely because the hearing was conducted remotely with Justice Sir Mark Warby and two lawyers flashing back and forth on screens via the Microsoft Teams app.

While the lawyers may have grumbled that the virtual hearing lacked some of the flair of the courtroom, there were no obvious hitches and even Justice Warby remarked that moving the proceedings online had opened it up to far more people. Under normal circumstances, the judge said, a couple of dozen people might have attended the hearing in person. Online, more than 100 followed it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced judiciaries in many countries to rethink how they operate. The result has been greater use of video and telephone conferencing, which could continue long after the pandemic. Before the outbreak, Britain was already in the midst of a £1.2-billion plan, or $2.07-billion, to increase the use of video technology in order to cut costs and speed up cases. While the pandemic has halted jury trials, most civil cases and family law matters have moved entirely online. Britain’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeal have also conducted hearings remotely. In Canada, courts in Ontario have also started holding more remote hearings and the Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments virtually for the first time in June.

There have been plenty of pitfalls. Legal observers say remote hearings threaten the concept of open justice, which means that anyone can walk into a courtroom and sit in the public gallery. British courts have kept most galleries open during the pandemic and journalists have generally been given access to remote proceedings.

It will also be difficult if not impossible to hold a jury trial via video. But even in criminal cases, many proceedings, such as sentencing, are moving online.

For now, judges and lawyers have had to adjust to the new reality and some are keen for it to continue. In a recent blog post, the London office of the firm Dentons sung the praises of a remote hearing before Britain’s Court of Appeal, saying “the entire process from start to finish was efficient and saved all parties unnecessary time and costs.”

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A sign for doctors and nurses hangs across the street from the Abbotsford Regional Hospital in Abbotsford, B.C.Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press/The Canadian Press

The doctor will always be in – virtually

by Wency Leung

Simon Hagens saw signs that Canada was slowly adopting virtual health care, but the country lagged behind other developed countries. Then came the pandemic and, suddenly, the practice of holding medical appointments by phone and video has become the norm.

“This is kind of a crash course [for] Canadians and health care providers learning how to use these tools,” says Mr. Hagens, senior director of performance analytics at the not-for-profit Canada Health Infoway, adding he anticipates virtual care will be here to stay.

According to data from his organization, which is funded by the federal government to drive digital health across the country, roughly 80 per cent of health visits in Canada were conducted in-person prior to the pandemic, while the rest were by phone, video, text or other digital means. By last month, only about 40 per cent of health visits in Canada were in-person, with the majority conducted virtually.

Michael Green, president and chief executive officer of Canada Health Infoway, says virtual care can eliminate unnecessary in-person visits, saving time and the need for travel. Projections from his organization, calculated prior to the pandemic, suggested that if 50 per cent of health visits in Canada were conducted virtually, that would save 103 million hours a year for Canadians in time spent travelling and waiting, and $770-million in expenses, such as transit fees, gas and parking. It would also translate to an estimated 325,000 metric tonnes of reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

There’s evidence to suggest virtual care can be cost effective for the health care system, too. For every dollar invested in remote patient monitoring programs, there is a $4 return for the health care system, Canada Health Infoway data show.

As digital health technologies become more integrated, Mr. Green envisions patients can routinely see their doctors via video services that are linked to their health records. And with electronic prescriptions, medications can be delivered directly to them. Meanwhile, health providers can use apps to monitor multiple patients at home, he says.

While virtual services come with many benefits, a co-ordinated effort is now needed to determine how best to use them, says Emily Seto, assistant professor at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto. For vulnerable populations, virtualized care can add even more barriers to health care, such as language requirements, digital literacy and access to devices, she cautions.

“This is about really figuring out what should stay," she says. "What didn’t work? How do we scale things that do work?”

In our cities and homes

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Downtown Niagara Falls, Ont., sits deserted on April 22. The exodus from large urban centres could be a boon for places slightly removed from them, like the Niagara region in Ontario or Abbotsford in B.C.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press/The Canadian Press

Canada will see the rise of the mid-sized city

by Matt Lundy

Forced to work from home, many Canadians have now experienced some of the benefits of remote working arrangements: less commuting, more flexible hours and the opportunity to build a more family-focused lifestyle.

If we’ve entered a new era of worker flexibility, the coming years could see hordes of Canadians ditch their cramped downtown condos for roomier confines in mid-sized cities and towns, adding thousands to an urban exodus that’s already taken root.

“What we’ve seen already – people moving farther and farther away from [major urban centres] in search of more affordable real estate – will only escalate” if the work-from-home trend continues, said Mike Moffatt, an economist at the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School.

In recent years, there’s been an uptick of people leaving the Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal regions. Over the 12 months ending in mid-2019, those three areas saw a net loss of 76,000 people to other parts of their respective provinces, according to Statistics Canada figures. The outflow is sizable among thirtysomethings and toddlers – that is, young families increasingly priced out of urban centres.

Where are they heading? The Niagara region and London in Ontario, Granby and Joliette in Quebec, and Abbotsford in British Columbia – places within a two-hour drive of the major metropolitan areas where jobs often accumulate.

No doubt, many people are pining for a return to the office. Not every home is fit for telework – children and dogs jumping on Zoom calls – and many thrive on the spontaneous interactions and collaboration that shared workspaces provide. Still, it’s easy to envision how even a small percentage of people sticking with telework would add up to significant change. In April, five million Canadians who were employed and worked the majority of their usual hours did so from home, an increase of 3.3 million from March, according to Statscan. “I suspect we’ll have more [telework] in 2021 than we did in 2019,” Prof. Moffatt said.

Still, the remote-work boom may have a downside for Canadians, Prof. Moffatt warned: If companies realize that work can be done effectively outside the office, then why not give those jobs to cheaper labour from abroad?

“If you could do your job from a beach in Thailand,” he said, “then there’s really nothing preventing the kid who’s never left Bangkok from taking that job.”

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Construction workers in Wuhan work on Feb. 4 at the Leishenshan Hospital, the second temporary field hospital to be built during its COVID-19 outbreak.Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua via AP/The Associated Press

Temporary buildings will meet needs as they arise ...

by Alex Bozikovic

Architecture moves slowly. An ordinary building takes years to plan, design and construct, and that’s a problem in a time of pandemic. COVID-19 has revealed the need for architecture that can quickly adapt to new and unexpected purposes.

Since the onset of the pandemic, buildings have had to change at a rapid pace. Cities in China, Europe and North America have created medical facilities by adapting large structures such as convention centres, arenas and parking garages. Public buildings have been adapted into housing for the homeless. And hospitals themselves are expanding. Calgary’s Peter Lougheed Centre added a temporary tent wing with 67 beds to accommodate COVID-19 patients and hospital overflow, working with design firm Stantec.

For the medical profession, this kind of change is familiar, although it typically happens at a slower pace. “Hospitals are a dynamic building type,” says Annmarie Adams, an architectural historian who heads the Department of Social Studies of Medicine at McGill University. “Almost as soon as a hospital opens, it starts to be renovated. In that sense, they’re experimental spaces.”

There have been attempts in the past to create hospitals that can morph quickly. In 1972, architect Eb Zeidler’s McMaster Health Sciences Centre explored the idea of a building as “megastructure,” a giant matrix, with interior walls that could be rearranged at will and narrower service layers sandwiched between the floors to carry pipes, ducts and wires to the right places.

But to accomplish this in a matter of weeks is incredibly difficult. One response is to use tents, as Calgary’s Lougheed Centre is doing. The roof and walls can be put up overnight; air handling and other mechanical systems are quicker to construct when you don’t have the complexity of a permanent structure to deal with. Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ont., built a similar structure in just nine days; it will last up to a year, and then the site will return to green space.

The other option is prefabrication: creating components of a building in a factory setting, and then trucking them to their permanent home. This idea goes back a century in the halls of modernist architecture. It rarely proves to be cheaper than conventional building, but it can be faster. The Toronto architects WZMH have developed a prototype screening centre for COVID-19 based on shipping containers.

But building from scratch is generally too slow for times such as this. Toronto’s downtown St. Michael’s Hospital repurposed lobby space in its research tower as a screening facility, with quick construction by architectural fabrication company Astound. Open space – and extra space – proves useful.

Paradoxically, older buildings that don’t meet today’s requirements can find new uses. Big cities have been working to house their homeless populations, trying to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 on the streets and in shelters; in Montreal, one facility that’s proved helpful for this purpose is the building that once housed the Royal Victoria Hospital. First built in 1893, and altered and expanded many times, it’s been sitting empty since 2015, when the hospital became part of a new “superhospital” located in a different facility. McGill University officials hope to use much of the old complex for academic purposes, but for now, the building is providing a critical role in protecting public health by serving as a temporary shelter for homeless people.

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Air conditioners are seen on a vine-covered walls of a building in central Kiev.Gleb Garanich/Reuters/Reuters

... and buildings will reject air conditioning

by Alex Bozikovic

Say hello to fresh air – and much higher energy bills. Early studies suggest that COVID-19 seems to spread better in confined spaces with recirculated air. This presents a massive problem in North America, where most of what we breathe – especially in larger buildings such as office towers, shopping malls and schools – is not fresh. The most common ventilation systems bring in air from the outdoors, heat or cool it, and then push it around in a circuit. Most of the air volume at any moment is recycled – and seasoned with whatever the people inside are expelling from their lungs.

There is an alternative: using natural ventilation, or in simpler terms, designing for the movement of fresh air. REHVA, a European trade group, has advised property managers and owners to start opening windows, maximizing fresh air intake, and closing off bathrooms.

But European buildings are generally much more efficient. Here, freshening the inside air would mean making windows that open and adding much more insulation. Until that happens, our current buildings will have to behave differently. Ventilation equipment will need to run longer – bringing in fresh air makes heating and cooling equipment work harder. This will suck up huge amounts of energy and increase the production of greenhouse gases. In dealing with one problem, we will probably make another one – climate change – even worse.

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Rene Prud'Homme gets a bit of fresh air on his balcony of a seniors residence in Montreal.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press/The Canadian Press

Long-term care homes will be redesigned

by Mike Hager

After an outbreak of COVID-19 is first confirmed in a long-term care home, staff often take the immediate step of isolating residents within their rooms to tamp down the risk of infection.

That risk is much lower if the person is living in a room by themselves, according to experts who say the single biggest design flaw in most nursing homes is shared accommodation and bathrooms.

“Having multiple people living in the same room but, more importantly, sharing bathrooms, makes it extremely difficult from an infection prevention and control point of view,” said Roger Wong, a geriatrician and clinical professor at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Wong, who is the B.C. representative on Ottawa’s long-term care task force providing national recommendations to the Prime Minister and Minister of Health, said ensuring seniors across the country have a room and bathroom to call their own has to be “really seriously considered and implemented.”

There is no clear data on how many residents in Canada’s nursing home beds are sharing a room, but Dr. Wong, a past president of the Canadian Geriatrics Society, said B.C. is in a comparatively good position compared with Ontario and Quebec, where two to four people in one room are more common.

Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s Seniors Advocate, said about three quarters of B.C.'s long-term care units are single-occupancy. She said she expects that future inquiries and official reviews of how the virus ravaged the sector will show that single-room occupancies played a major role in B.C. averting the number of nursing home deaths seen in Ontario and Quebec. (B.C. has seen 89 deaths out of a total of 135 provincewide, while Ontario and Quebec have experienced higher tolls: 1,320 in Ontario and 2,161 in Quebec, as of May 14.)

A November, 2017, Conference Board of Canada report said there is one simple reason why private rooms weren’t the norm across the sector: Building a facility with single rooms can cost nearly twice as much on a per-bed basis as one with shared rooms.

Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said the current dire situation in the sector is showing operators have been “pennywise and pound foolish” in trying to save money by housing multiple people to a room.

“Should it change? Absolutely. Will there be pressure to do so? Oh, I hope so, given what’s gone on,” he said. “This doesn’t require a discovery, or invention, or anything, it requires political will and money.”​

In our political lives

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Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks at a physically distanced emergency COVID-19 session of the legislature in Winnipeg.John Woods/The Canadian Press/The Canadian Press

Federal-provincial power will shift

by Konrad Yakabuski

When the premiers of Canada’s two largest provinces last month called on Ottawa to send in the army to help out at long-term care homes overrun with COVID-19 cases, they also served to underscore the unequal balance of powers in the Canadian federation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quickly answered their pleas, but not without delivering a scolding.

“In Canada, we should not have soldiers taking care of seniors,” Mr. Trudeau said. “In the weeks and months to come, we will all have to ask tough questions about how it came to this.”

For students of federal-provincial relations, the incident was rich in symbolism and recalled an earlier era when another prime minister Trudeau never missed an opportunity to talk down to the premiers. Pierre Trudeau always considered the provinces as junior partners in the federation. The apple, it appears, has not fallen far from the tree.

Mr. Trudeau seemed to suggest the governments of Ontario and Quebec had fallen down on their constitutionally mandated job of caring for their provinces’ oldest and most vulnerable citizens – and that the adult in the room might just have to do something about it.

We are a long way from a rewriting of sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution, which set out the powers of the federal and provincial governments. But with calls for Ottawa to bring seniors’ care under the Canada Health Act, setting national standards that the provinces would need to meet in exchange for federal cash, Mr. Trudeau would likely have strong public backing to assert federal authority and strike while the iron is hot.

Throughout Canada’s history, big crises have almost always led to the enhancement of Ottawa’s power at the expense of the provinces, and there is no reason to believe this time will be any different. Indeed, most provinces will grapple with even more dire public finances after the coronavirus pandemic ebbs than they faced before this crisis began. And while the federal government’s books won’t look much rosier, it has far greater resources to draw on.

The pandemic has exposed gaps in Canada’s health-care system, social safety net and data collection methods that only Ottawa can address. The balance sheets of most provinces are fragile. They can barely manage the responsibilities allotted to them, much less assume additional powers. And Canada’s post-pandemic challenges will be national in scope.

As the Great Depression of the 1930s dragged on, Liberal prime minister Mackenzie King’s government set up the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations, to examine “the economic and financial basis of Confederation and the distribution of legislative powers in the light of the economic and social developments” since 1867. The commission’s 1940 report laid the groundwork for a host of federal initiatives in areas deemed the authority of the provinces, from unemployment insurance to old age pensions.

Conservative R.B. Bennett had proposed a national unemployment insurance program in 1935, but the plan was struck down by the courts as a violation of the section 92, which grants the province’s authority over property and civil matters. Coming out of the Depression, however, the provinces had no money to launch their own programs. And since Canada has a national labour market, separate provincial plans made little sense.

A constitutional amendment, adopted in 1940 with the unanimous consent of the provinces, enabled the King government to proceed with the creation of the unemployment insurance (now known as employment insurance) program. The holes in that program have grown over time with shifts in the labour market and the nature of work, leading Mr. Trudeau to establish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for workers who have lost their jobs or income as a result of the pandemic shutdown but who do not qualify for EI.

Both the CERB and the crisis in long-term care homes underscore the need for a rethinking of federal-provincial responsibilities for the 2020s and beyond.

The provinces will resist the idea. But it will be a long time before any of them is in a position to put up much of a fight.

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Masked paramilitary police officers patrol near Beijing's Tiananmen Square on May 3.NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images

COVID-19 will ignite the next Cold War

by Nathan Vanderklippe

Mutual suspicion. Ideological rivalry. Military and technological competition. Angry rhetoric. Battles for foreign influence played out in proxy states. A space race. For years, strains have grown between China and the U.S. — and Western countries more broadly.

Now, the pandemic has added new impetus to those determined to pry apart the thicket of trade, industrial and academic ties that have interwoven China and the West.

“A new cold war has begun, and the virus can be seen as the starting point,” said Shen Dingli, one of China’s top scholars in international relations. Beyond questions of economic policy or who will install 5G networks, Prof. Shen sees the seeds of a “complete rejection of political systems” by both sides. It’s a trend hastened by the virus, which has elevated Western suspicions of Chinese trustworthiness while also further dimming China’s view of the competence of Western liberal democracies.

Already, researchers and journalists have been tossed out of China and Western countries alike, at a time of rising distrust. Major Western economies, France and Germany included, have imposed new scrutiny on foreign investment, amid fear of Chinese firms acquiring advanced technology.

In Washington, Brussels and, more recently, Ottawa, the foreign policy establishment has described China in darkening terms: as a competitor, a “systemic rival” and a “strategic challenge.” Similar warnings have emerged in the economic sphere. “The era of reflexive offshoring is over,” U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer wrote in the New York Times, calling the 2001 normalization of trading relations the “most regrettable example” of recent U.S. trade policy. Only 11 per cent of Canadians, meanwhile, favour strengthening trade ties with China, an Angus Reid Institute poll found this week, a plunge from 40 per cent in 2015.

Washington’s invocations of the dangers of Chinese foreign influence have been matched by Beijing’s rage against a U.S.-led containment strategy. When Chinese political representatives meet next week for the country’s rubber-stamp parliament, among the topics for discussion is a proposal to eliminate compulsory English studies and drop English from university placement testing. Twice this week alone, China’s foreign ministry has accused the U.S. of being “entrenched in the Cold War mentality and ideological bias.” Should “neo-McCarthyism be completely resurrected in the U.S., it will signal a start of a new cold war between China and the U.S.,” Zhang Tengjun, of the China Institute of International Studies, wrote in a recent state media column.

“It poses perilous threats to world peace and stability, leading to subversion of the existing international order, leaving it in an unpredictable mess.”

With reporting by Alexandra Li

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World leaders take part in a virtual G20 summit on March 26 to discuss COVID-19.Gary Ramage/Getty Images/Getty Images

In a geopolitical vacuum, Canada will need to cling to friends

by Mark MacKinnon

For the past five years, Canada has based its foreign policy on support for multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. The “rules-based international order,” as Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland calls it, was supposed to keep the country safe.

It’s hard to feel safe in 2020 as the old world order continues to collapse under the weight of rising populism and protectionism, and now a borderless pandemic. But with few better options on the horizon, Canada has little choice but to tighten its bonds to countries such as Germany and France that share its outlook and values – at least until the outcome of the next U.S. election is known. In the previous great international test – the 2008 financial crisis – international organizations, led by the G20, helped pull the world through and avert an even worse outcome.

A package of economic and fiscal measures agreed to at a G20 summit in Washington in 2008 played a key role in halting the collapse of the financial system, and restarting worldwide economic growth. This time around – after three-plus years of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” attacks on international institutions, combined with a rising China’s efforts to subvert some of those same bodies – the has system failed.

The World Health Organization has drawn most of the fire for its bungled handling of the information it received from Beijing at the beginning of the pandemic, but other institutions have been even slower to react. The G-20, led this year by Saudi Arabia, held a virtual summit in late March that produced a communiqué long on statements about the need for co-operation in the face of COVID-19, but which noticeably lacked a 2008-style plan of action for how to halt the global economic slide.

A March 16 virtual meeting of G-7 foreign ministers produced no joint statement at all after the U.S. insisted that COVID-19 be referred to as the “Wuhan virus” in the text. Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council has been rendered inert by disputes between veto-wielding members China, Russia and the U.S., and has struggled to pass even what should have been a straightforward resolution calling for a global ceasefire during the pandemic.

The paralysis of such bodies has left Canadian foreign policy wandering about, searching for a new true north. Ann Fitz-Gerald, the director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs, said Ottawa needs to make some very quick determinations about what its foreign policy interests are, and strengthen ties to “like-minded partners” that share those goals. “We have to step up now more than ever. We could have another four years of Trumpism, of the vacuum in international leadership,” she said.

The vehicle that Canada could next tie its cart to already exists: an informal grouping called the Alliance for Multilateralism (AFM) that Ms. Freeland helped bring together two years ago as a counterweight to the rise of populist and nationalist forces around the globe. On April 22, Canada and 23 other signatory countries declared that COVID-19 was “a wake-up call for multilateralism,” and pledged their support for the beleaguered UN and WHO.

The alliance is admittedly weak. Neither the United States nor China is a member. Russia and the United Kingdom were also absent from the list of signatories on the April 22 statement, leaving France as the only member of the United Nations Security Council willing to affirm its support for the way things used to work. Only eight members of the G-20 – Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, South Africa, Mexico, Italy and Argentina – signed the April statement. Nobody, yet, wants to make the AFM into anything larger than an informal gathering for fear of looking like an anti-U.S. grouping and angering Mr. Trump.

But countries such as Canada have few better options to secure their interests in the new world order, where some of the most powerful countries are behaving as though the old rules no longer apply. For middle powers, acting together is more effective than going it alone.

“Of course, [the AFM] doesn’t recreate full-blown multilateralism, but it maintains the foundations,” said Justin Vaisse, director-general of the Paris Peace Forum, an annual gathering of world leaders meant to promote multilateralism.

Mr. Vaisse said supporters of multilateralism had showed their ability to get things done by stepping into the void after Mr. Trump, in separate decisions, withdrew U.S. support from the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees, as well as the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. Another example came earlier this month, when the European Union, the U.K., Canada, Australia, Japan, Norway and Saudi Arabia led the creation of a US$8-billion fund to support the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. None of the U.S., China or Russia contributed to the effort.

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Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s top health official, looks on as she joins Health Minister Adrian Dix for a COVID-19 briefing.Chad Hipolito/The Globe and Mail/The Globe and Mail

We’ll embrace vulnerability in our leaders

by Sierra Bein

Women may be under-represented in boardrooms, CEO suites and legislatures, but female leaders have made a lasting impression on Canadians during the greatest crisis of our time. Seven out of the 14 top health officials across the country are­­­­­ women, and t­­hey have led with humanity and compassion – as well as formidable expertise. Some, such as Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, have shown steely mettle in the face of adversity. Others have allowed their emotions to show – something female leaders are routinely criticized for. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, was on the verge of tears when she asked Canadians to keep their distance from each other. But the tears didn’t make her seem weak. Instead, they offered a rare glimpse of humanity at a time when the country needed it.

“I think people are really thinking a lot more about, and understanding the value of, empathy and the value of kindness and of listening,” says Sonia Kang, an associate professor at Rotman School of Management.

As Prof. Kang points out, there’s nothing inherently female about showing emotions. Gender stereotypes are not only limiting to women, “they’re also limiting for men because it puts pressure on them to act a certain way as well.”

So when the pandemic ends, there may be more Canadians who picture the face of leadership and see a woman. But the greatest shift in our collective mindset may be this: When we face our next crisis, we’ll welcome leaders who aren’t afraid to show a little emotion.

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