Home Month and Year June 2020 The Benefit of Hindsight When Assessing the Speed of Bureaucracy

The Benefit of Hindsight When Assessing the Speed of Bureaucracy

Terry O'Flynn.

Bureaucracy. That is a heavy word. For most it conjures up images of heavy government oversight and red tape that drags down important projects and policies. Yet if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the speed of bureaucracy can change.

Within days of the shutdown, programs for small business and individuals hit the table with unprecedented speed. From tax relief to small business aid, more money for the underserved to support for essential workers, we have seen a lot of changes take place in weeks – changes that would normally have taken months, if not years, to deploy.

Were these measures successful?

While some individuals and businesses felt supported, others fell through the cracks and suffered financial, personal, and professional hardship. Some will not recover from this. The loss of savings, the loss of small businesses that took years to build, the plunge of stocks that wiped out savings, millions on benefits programs – for many this pandemic will have a lifelong toll. Nevertheless, our governments had to do something unprecedented, and they tried. Party barriers came down, albeit briefly, and we saw more collaboration and conversations across all parties than ever before. We learned valuable lessons about how we can all work more consistently together. It may not have been a total success in all areas, but some people and businesses were helped. “E” for effort, is what I’m saying here.

The provincial and federal rapid response in shutting down the economy, creating relief programs, and restarting the economy may not have been a response that took all the right steps. Perhaps action could have been taken sooner. Perhaps more people could have been helped with better benefits. However, it must be commended that we saw collaborative action take place quickly, turning the notion of “the speed of bureaucracy” on its head.

We learned that the speed of bureaucracy does not have to be a negative thing. It is designed to have necessary checks and balances and sometimes that can slow things down. However, now we see that system works. Right now it’s still our usual system that has been in place for decades, it’s just moving faster.

The pandemic has forced us all to confront some very uncomfortable realities, such as recognizing who our essential workers are and the conditions they are working in. The conversation about working from home stopped being a possibility and within days became a stark reality. We saw terrible outbreaks in seniors’ homes, exposing flaws in how we care for our most vulnerable. We saw vital parts of our food chain greatly affected, driving home how much of our resources we take for granted.

As isolation restrictions ease and we adapt to a new normal, let’s not forget the lessons we learned and the realities that were exposed. We have a lot of work to do moving forward to restart the economy and care for our citizens. We need to keep moving fast, but with the benefit of hindsight. The speed of bureaucracy can move quickly, but it moves best when our eyes remain looking at the lessons we learned along the way.