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Why compassion needs to be the new normal in public policy

By Kathleen Finlay      

The repeated failure of policy-makers to address known risks to residents of long-term care homes and deal with the root causes of an epidemic of opioid overdoses, are symptoms of a systemic collapse in the duty of governments to protect the most vulnerable. These are landmarks in institutional betrayal.

In her economic and fiscal update on Dec. 14, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced $742-million in one-time payments for seniors who saw their guaranteed income supplement payments clawed back this year after receiving pandemic supports. That sudden reversal is one more indication that compassion is becoming the new normal, writes Kathleen Finlay. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

The coronavirus pandemic is a harsh teacher. One of its more gripping lessons has been what happens when we forget about the powerless and the voiceless. Another is that political leaders and decision-makers are beginning to understand—some more quickly than others—that they are expected to see their jobs, and their deliverables to the public and employees, through a more compassionate lens. This week’s sudden reversal by the federal government in finally restoring the guaranteed income supplement (GIS) benefits it had taken from 90,000 low-income seniors is one more indication that compassion is becoming the new normal. This year low income seniors who received pandemic support through the Canada emergency response benefit saw their GIS payments clawed back, but Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s recent fiscal update offered $742-million in one-time payments to address that gap. The decision came only after howls of outrage and impassioned demands that the government rediscover its compassion guardrails to avoid making decisions that carry the virus of serious emotional and physical harm.

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