The purpose of this report is to underline the cost to the provincial governments of not addressing the needs of the population. The Atlantic region has had to invest to deal with the pandemic, first in terms of health care resources, and second, in terms of the social and economic impact of pandemic mitigation strategies. Thus far, our health care system has been fortunate to not have been as strained as other places in Canada that saw more infections and hospitalizations. As such, our governments have been able to largely rely on spending that has come from the federal government. This is especially fortunate because we were at a different starting point than the other provinces, both in terms of these services and even in terms of our health status profile with Atlantic Canadians having higher chronic diseases and an ageing population.
There was also little slack in any of these systems. In terms of being able to absorb the impact of the pandemic, successive governments lack of investment in diversifying the economy, supporting rural communities, and its perpetuation of the low-waged economy, has resulted in some of the highest rates of poverty and food insecurity in the country. As the Atlantic provinces consider how to support the region to recover from the pandemic, there is an opportunity to learn the lessons the pandemic has taught us, both about our vulnerabilities, and how to do things differently than pre-pandemic.
The goal of recovery plans should be to invest in the health and well-being of the population and, given the urgency of the climate crisis, our environment. Eradicating poverty must be an important part of the recovery, building stronger, more inclusive provinces. From the estimation of what it costs to have poverty in our communities, it is clear, the decision to not do so affects our ability to reach our full potential.