Long-Term Thinking in Extraordinary Times: Macroeconomic Lessons from the Pandemic

  • James K. Stewart (Jason), Executive in Residence, Global Risk Institute
  • Hugh O’Reilly, Executive in Residence, Global Risk Institute
  • Erik Brown, Research Analyst, Global Risk Institute
Virus under a microscope


Examining Canada’s economic experience during the pandemic offers an opportunity to assess the fiscal and monetary policy lessons learned as of early 2021. Our goal is not to unduly question or second-guess the decisions that were made under intense time pressures and with inadequate information as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded. Canada’s pandemic phase response needs to be seen through the lens of unprecedented “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” of policy risk management. The scale of the pandemic’s problems and uncertainties manifested huge risks for policymakers because many issues could not be managed based on past experience.

This paper builds upon Stewart and O’Reilly’s April 2020 article on the need for policy-making during COVID-19 to reflect the three phases of the crisis — the pandemic, transition, and sustainable phases — to help better identify, assess and manage economic, financial and other risks. It is a precursor to a much longer and more detailed policy examination to follow later this spring.