U of L professors discuss psychological, economic and political impacts of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for job losses across Canada over the last few months. According to Statistics Canada, the country’s unemployment rate rose from 5.5 per cent in January to 7.8 per cent in March and up to 13 per cent in April.

In response to the job losses, the federal government implemented the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) — a form of stimulus funding one professor said is only helpful in the short-term.

During a live session with the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs on Thursday, a sociology professor at the University of Lethbridge, Dr. Trevor Harrision, said these types of traditional stimulus programs alone are likely not sufficient in solving the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

“The early predictions for the results of the pandemic were that we would have a V-shaped recovery,” he said. “That is a fast decline followed by a relatively swift rebound of the economy.

“More recently, some of the predictions are the rebound is going to be more prolonged.”

As for southern Alberta, and Lethbridge specifically, he said certain sectors will be, or already have been, hit harder than others.

“Food services, tourism, health and education — I think these are the major areas that could be impacted,” Harrison said. “Whether or not it’s going to be the short, medium or long-term again remains one of those questions.”

Harrison also noted that the province and country could see some drastic political changes due to the pandemic.

“The pandemic may bring about big government,” he said.

“It may also bring about the retrenchment of, frankly, more authoritarian and bigger corporate state.”

He said that past pandemics have shaken up existing political arrangements and added that COVID-19 could have a similar effect.

A registered psychologist and associate professor at the University of Lethbridge, Dr. Noella Piquette, said some people may have a more difficult time emotionally as a result of a variety of stresses brought on by job losses, social isolation and other factors.

“I think it’s safe to say that there’s going to be psychological scars for a very long time,” she said.

“They’re going to be multi-layered.”

While many areas of the world have been more fortunate than others in dealing with the pandemic, Piquette said everyone is allowed to feel emotional.

“Many individuals feel that they’re not entitled to feel the feelings that they absolutely have right now, and it’s valid,” she said.

While some communities may not have active cases of COVID-19, the realities of the pandemic impacts everyone, Piquette said.

“Living in that state of stress and fear and checking everything that you’re doing at all time is going to cause a lot of stress,” she said.

She added that the best thing to do for the short term is to continue to follow public health guidelines and remember what to be thankful for during times of uncertainty.

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