In early March, the contents of this issue of Inroads were taking definitive shape. There was much to write about.
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ resistance to construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline across their traditional territory in northern British Columbia, and the cross-Canada protests supporting the chiefs, raised complex issues on which editorial board member Gareth Morley could cast light ( The Perils of Postcolonialism ). We were also exploring aspects of the regional divide between the Prairie provinces and the rest of Canada, starkly revealed in the 2019 federal election.1 Co-publisher Henry Milner, in his ongoing study of Donald Trump supporters in the United States, had concluded that insufficient attention was being paid to the crucial distinction between uninformed and misinformed voters ( The Uninformed, the Misinformed and the Disinformed ). Co-publisher John Richards was heartened by the results of a little-noticed election in the Indian state of Delhi, which could provide a much-needed shock to the lamentable state of public education, and public services more broadly, in South Asia. The reform party that won the election trounced both major national parties: the currently governing BJP and Congress, in power until 2014 ( Something is Rotten in the State of India ). Two Quebec opposition parties were seeking new leaders.2 There were some notable books to review.3
Then, with dramatic suddenness, we were required to learn a new vocabulary – quarantine, self-isolation, social distancing, flatten the curve, PPE, N95 – and a new way of life. And to adopt a new agenda for Inroads.
The biggest change is not in the content of Inroads but in the medium itself. Unlike the 46 previous issues, this one is not available in ink-and-paper format. This change has been under discussion for some time, as the proportion of Inroads readers who access our content online has steadily increased, but it was not scheduled to take effect with this issue. However, we determined that, in a context of pandemic restrictions, it was best not to endeavour to move from the design and production stage (in Vancouver) to printing (in Brampton, Ontario) and then to mailing and newsstand distribution. So you may be reading this in the usual web format or in a PDF that looks like the old print edition, but either way it has reached you electronically.
In terms of content, we compare the impact of the pandemic in Scandinavia to that in Canada. In Canada, deaths from COVID-19 have been especially high in Quebec: with less than 23 per cent of Canada’s population, as of the end of May it had recorded more than 60 per cent of the deaths. In Scandinavia, Sweden has almost 80 per cent of the deaths with 38 per cent of Scandinavia’s population. A major factor contributing to Quebec’s high rate is the proportion of the elderly living in long-term care residences, CHSLDs, with 70 per cent of Quebec’s deaths. Sweden has also seen a substantial number of deaths in long-term care homes, around 50 per cent. But what has drawn most attention is that unlike its Nordic neighbours and most other countries, Sweden did not impose a strict lockdown. We have four reports from Scandinavia about why Sweden acted differently and how it has played out: from Thomas Lundén and Donald Lavery in Stockholm, John Erik Fossum in Oslo and Jan Otto Andersson in Turku, Finland.
Click to read The Swedish exception.
Our columnists also look at the COVID-19 crisis from various angles. Julia Smith examines the reasons why, despite a verbal commitment to “evidence-based policy,” it so rarely happens in practice, in Evidence and Policy: Why the Twain Rarely Meet. Arthur Milner asks why so little information was available and so few pointed questions were asked about how governments responded to the pandemic, in We Did Okay, but Where Was the Information? Reg Whitaker traces the journey from Canada’s being declared broken in the midst of the countrywide pipeline protests in February to our being “stronger together” in the face of the pandemic in April, and has some suggestions about where we go from here in Through the Looking Glass – and Back?
Also in this issue:
- Mark Jaccard exchanges views with John Richards on issues raised in Jaccard’s new book on climate change, in Impossible Things.
- Eric Shaw reports on how the British Labour Party is changing under its new leader Keir Starmer, in British Labour’s Safe Pair of Hands.
- Geographer Thomas Lundén explores the complex relationship between state and nation in the context of his home country of Sweden and beyond, in What is a Nation?
- Christian Rioux remembers Le Nouvel Observateur founder Jean Daniel in Jean Daniel: Remembering a Giant of Journalism.
- Henry Milner brings us up to date on efforts to achieve electoral reform in Quebec, in Quebec Takes a Step Toward Electoral Reform.
The activities of two Inroads editorial board members merit special mention. Philip Resnick, an eminent political scientist, has been represented in recent issues of Inroads primarily in his other guise as a poet. In an evocative chapter of his new memoir Itineraries,4 Philip writes about his “muse” – the “unseen voice” behind his poetic writing. During the pandemic, Philip’s muse has been especially insistent, and he has responded with some of his best work, casting light on dimensions of this time that go beyond the policy implications. It is fitting that there be an expanded selection of Philip’s poems in this issue.
Click to read Pandemic Poems, by Philip Resnick.
Dominic Cardy was elected to the New Brunswick legislature as a Progressive Conservative in September 2018. When the Liberal government fell later that fall, Dominic was appointed Education Minister. Until this issue, Dominic still managed to find some time for Inroads. But not this time, and we could not, at first, quite figure out what had changed. It turned out that Dominic, before virtually anyone else in the political realm, had realized that the novel coronavirus emerging in Asia, a part of the world he knows well, would pose a serious threat to public health in Canada. At a caucus retreat on February 24, he roused his colleagues to action with a detailed white paper. Largely as a result of his efforts, New Brunswick acted quickly and effectively. As of the end of May, not a single New Brunswicker had died of COVID-19. Dominic’s prescience and persistence earned him recognition by the National Post as a “hero of the pandemic.”5 We will, just this once, forgive Dominic his absence from the Inroads editorial process.
1 The section What Makes the Prairie Provinces Different? consists of two articles: Stephen Bird analyzes poll results showing polarization between the Prairies and the rest of Canada on energy issues in Energy and Canada’s Polarized Regions, while Geoff Salomons and Daniel Béland explore why Alberta, uniquely among Canadian provinces, does not have a sales tax in Is the Alberta Advantage Really an Advantage?
3 See Arthur Milner’s The World’s Most Valuable Resource, a review of three books on the political use of data; Mark Pancer on The Other Epidemic: Deaths of Despair; Jan Otto Andersson on the “narrow corridor” of liberal democracy in A Grand Narrative About the Narrow Corridor of Liberty; and John Richards on an Indigenous writer’s call to recognize alcoholism as the key dysfunction in First Nation communities in Is Alcoholism First Nations’ Key Dysfunction?.
4 Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2020.
5 Joe O’Connor, Heroes of the Pandemic: New Brunswick Politician who Crushed the COVID-19 Curve is a Virus Whisperer, National Post, May 8, 2020.