Nov. 26, 2021

Brian Mulroney on how Canada can come out stronger post-COVID-19

Former prime minister to speak of opportunity presented by the pandemic in free public event Nov. 29
Brian Mulroney
Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney will discuss the greatest public health challenges facing Canada at O’Brien Institute for Public Health event. Photo courtesy Brian Mulroney

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed millions of lives, crippled economies, polarized belief systems, and destabilized countries and political and economic unions.

And according to Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th prime minister, COVID-19 has also provided Canadians with a unique opportunity to address systemic issues that have bubbled up to the surface as a result of the pandemic, issues that have left many at a disadvantage, vulnerable and exposed to future public health emergencies.

In A Conversation With Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the former PM will speak to what he feels are important lessons that have been distilled through this emergency, during a virtual conversation hosted by the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the Cumming School of Medicine, and led by the institute’s scientific director, Dr. Tom Stelfox, MD, PhD, at noon on Nov. 29.

“I want to do whatever I can to increase the reach and effectiveness of the institute and help it achieve its mission during this public health emergency,” says Mulroney, of the virtual forum.

Inequities, injustices and misaligned priorities

Mulroney will discuss how, in an increasingly divisive environment, he sees the pandemic as a fortuitous chance to address underlying societal ailments, that, not coincidentally, are at the root of many of the country’s public health challenges, such as social and economic inequity, racism, and stretched health systems.

His drive and dedication to bring these discussions to the fore have been made evident since the onset of the pandemic.

In recent interviews, as well as in submissions to news organizations, Mulroney — prime minister of Canada from 1984 to 1993 — has stated that the pandemic has forced Canadians to take a long, hard look at themselves, as a country and as a people.

What’s been made clear through this process, according to Mulroney, are inequities, injustices and misaligned priorities that have negatively impacted the fabric of society, the economy, and Canadians’ overall well-being, leaving countless Canadians particularly vulnerable during the pandemic and carrying a greater share of the burden.

Mulroney calls for action on public health issues

As such, Mulroney has called on political leaders to address these critical, upstream public health issues, calling in a piece in the Globe and Mail for “greater fairness and opportunities for our Black, Indigenous and people of colour,” as well as “the eradication of systemic racism and anti-Semitism in Canada.”

In another Globe and Mail piece, Mulroney argued for a universal basic income and referred to the Indigenous situation in Canada as “the single greatest blight on our citizenship.”

In conversations with the O’Brien Institute, Mulroney also made it clear that he’s concerned about the future, robustness and sustainability of Canada’s health-care system, pointing to recent statistics that show that out of the 28 highest health-care spending countries in the world, Canada ranks at or near the bottom in terms of number of doctors, hospital beds and wait times. These are not numbers we should be seeing, especially as Canada tries to navigate its way out of a pandemic, he adds.

It’s not about spending more. Look at the U.S. They spend more than anyone and their outcomes are worse. But we do have to take a good look at where we are spending our health-care dollars and ask ourselves why we aren’t getting the results that we seek.

The virtual forum will provide a foundation for a necessary public discourse, one that will be critical in addressing many of the upstream aspects of public health that are negatively impacting the well-being of many Canadians and, if addressed, can better position Canada ahead of the next pandemic, says Stelfox.

“We are honoured to have such a senior statesman engage with us in a conversation around what we can learn from this pandemic and how we can be better prepared to prevent, or manage, the next one,” he says.

Register for free virtual forum

These discussions help catalyze and focus public health research, which is at the core of the institute’s mission, says Stelfox, adding that they provide an important opportunity for knowledge exchange between the public and the university.

“Research has informed everything about the pandemic, from governments’ response, to individual actions and expectations,” he says. “O’Brien Institute members have been working on this since the beginning and are working hard so that we will all be better prepared for the next pandemic.”

This virtual forum is a public event and is free to attend. Register here