Insight

The Top 7 Issues Impacting Canada in 2022

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Written by 
Dan Pujdak
Bonnie Leask
Mike MacDonell
 & 
Scott Cavan
January 2022

To say 2021 was transformative for Canadians is, perhaps, an understatement. Two years into the pandemic, Canadians are living with new realities, challenges, and opportunities. What trends can we expect in transformation for 2022? We asked Coeuraj's Dan Pujdak, Bonnie Leask, Mike MacDonell, and Scott Cavan what they see as the top issues in Canada this year. Here is what’s on our radar this year.

Available, affordable, and adequate housing

As new homeowners vie for the opportunity to own a home, millennials are entering their prime earning years, and as a record-breaking number of new Canadians are coming into the country, the hot housing market will produce fiery debates.  

The lack of available, affordable, and adequate housing in Canada has pushed the country into a social and economic crisis, decades in the making. The shortage of available housing is now reaching unsustainable levels given Canada’s projected population growth. To put our lack of supply into perspective, Canada would need to immediately create an additional 1.8M units in order to reach the G-7 average of housing units to population. For housing that is available, sky-rocketing prices mean that home ownership is out of reach for many looking to break into the market. In 2021 alone, the housing price index increased 26% according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. And the pressures do not end there: as the pandemic pushes on, many municipalities are seeing an increase in people experiencing houselessness. Shelter systems are buckling and “tent cities'' are cropping up due to dwindling housing options for those that need it most. 

Collaborating to solve the housing crisis in Canada stands as one of the most important and urgent challenges of our time and will undoubtedly be top of mind for every person—and for every political leader—in Canada this year.

The full recognition of Indigenous peoples

There is unfinished business within the Canadian confederation: recognizing and collaborating with Indigenous jurisdictions. This gap will be magnified as governments recognize Indigenous child welfare laws; commit, in some cases, to legislate and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and as new Indigenous health care legislation is rolled out. Each of these initiatives touch on the jurisdictions of multiple governments, all of whom will need to be working towards the best interests of Indigenous peoples to succeed. 

Indigenous peoples have consistently maintained their right to self-determination. It is only in recent years that federal, provincial, and territorial governments have showed up to join the conversation. Creating a bigger Confederation will not be without its challenges. We can expect Federal, Provincial, and Territorial priorities to bump into one another; Indigenous peoples evolving their understanding of their own governments (and delays while public civil servants and politicians digest what that means); and, likely, lots more time in the Supreme Court. However, the full recognition of Indigenous peoples and governments is the unfinished business of Confederation. In 2022, we can expect progress towards finishing it. 

“The full recognition of Indigenous peoples and governments is the unfinished business of Confederation. In 2022, we can expect progress towards finishing it.”

Healthcare reform

Even before COVID-19, Canada’s healthcare system was struggling. Ending “hallway medicine” has been a political rallying call for provincial parties across Canada. In 2022, many are wondering if they can even get at-home rapid tests or if their “elective” surgery will be canceled. Canada’s healthcare system scores second-worst in a recent Commonwealth Fund report assessing the systems of 11 developed countries and the second-lowest number of acute care beds per capita amongst OECD nations. Something must give—the question is what? 

Polling has shown Canadians overwhelmingly support public healthcare and discussions about private healthcare have been politically charged. Provinces and the Federal Government have bickered over levels of healthcare funding, which currently represents over 10% of Canada’s current GPD, and is amongst the highest in the world. Healthcare reform will require high levels of collaboration and political capital, and this is something Canadians will be evaluating as the pandemic withers away the healthcare system’s ability to live up to the level of care people in Canada expect.

Canada's role in global sustainability

In Canada, major industries like energy and mining are leading the charge to carbon neutrality. Their investors, public governments, and the communities in which they work will expect them to speed up as climate and weather events in Canada play out over the daily news.

Transitioning to a new paradigm will require an unprecedented shift towards new low-carbon technologies, access to investment and meaningful evaluation metrics, and policies for meeting global economic needs.

Canada will feel these global changes acutely. In addition, a global rush to secure supply chains for rare earth minerals and metals, which will support clean energy transition, are likely to increase mining activities in Canada.

In North America, the critical minerals and metals we depend on are found on Indigenous lands. For Canada to contribute to the battle against climate change—and reap the economic benefits from doing so—the work of reconciliation will likely need to speed up. Regulatory and legislative regimes may need to be reconsidered, as will sustainability standards which emphasize the environmental impacts of today’s mining operations over the clean energy future they enable.

“Canada’s healthcare system scores second-worst in a recent Commonwealth Fund report assessing the systems of 11 developed countries and the second-lowest number of acute care beds per capita amongst OECD nations. Something has to give—the question is what?”

Restructuring supply chains

From microchips to coffee beans, Canada is facing supply chain shortages from coast-to-coast to-coast. Part of the problem is a logistical issue caused by the pandemic. However, there is a deeper, structural issue: an international competition that is turning increasingly hostile. Canada will need to navigate shoring up its own supply chains, which might include industrial policy at the national or provincial levels, trade agreements, and assessing the impact of current regulatory frameworks and policies on our capability to manufacture and import goods.

Geo-political threats in the Arctic

Arctic affairs are heating up. Russia, China, and the United States have each been expanding their influence in the region. Canada, along with its close trading partner the United States, will be updating Arctic defence systems in the years to come. Meanwhile, the United States continues to object to Canada’s assertion of sovereignty over the Northwest Passage and disputes Canada’s western arctic maritime boundaries; northern territories continue to pressure Canada for funding to bring their quality of services and care in line with the south, and geopolitical rivals are expanding their presence and investments in the region. Recently, the UK offered to help Canada defend its Arctic. Is this a sign that our partners are losing faith—or is it a sign that Canada’s place as an arctic nation offers it a future geopolitical advantage that our partners are keen to shore up?

Cannabis sector reform

In 2020 Canada’s cannabis industry produced $17B in economic output. This makes the cannabis sector almost as large as Canada’s automobile industry. And yet, Canadian producers have been walloped on markets, headlines are increasingly focused on litigation, an economic disaster, and retailers are facing daunting supply issues. The industry may have a change in fortune in 2022: more legalization in the United States, a federal review of the Cannabis Act, mergers and acquisitions, and efforts to bolster access to supply and diversify products might make the industry even more profitable. Then again, it might not.

2022 will provide more insights on if, and how, the cannabis sector will evolve—and whether it will become a tremendous economic force.

Are you working on one or more of these pressing issues? We’d love to hear from you and discover how you’re navigating 2022. 

Dan Pujdak is former Executive Director at Coeuraj Bonnie Leask is former Director of Indigenous Engagements at Coeuraj Mike MacDonell is Director of Strategic Development at Coeuraj Scott Cavan is former Director of Sustainable Economies at Coeuraj

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