Editorial: The price of uncertainty
In business, no news is worse than bad news.
March 2, 2022 By Patrick Flannery
It was probably inevitable that this pandemic was eventually going to lead to some kind of social unrest. You just can’t interfere with the lives and habits of people forever without encountering pushback, no matter how justified your cause. And when you add the fear and suspicion that comes with disease, a volatile cocktail of emotion is created that constantly threatens to boil over. I remember visiting some medieval graveyards on a trip to Europe and seeing the dark images of the Grim Reaper surrounded by the dead and dying victims of the Black Plague…and that was in a churchyard. I’m guessing the mental health of the artist may not have been all it could be. We know that (much worse) pandemic gave rise to all manner of social upheaval including wars; reordering of cities; mass population movements; bizarre cults and rituals; economic collapse; and scientific, cultural and technological stagnation. Perhaps we should be grateful if the worst we have to deal with is a bunch of truckers clogging up the streets.
By the time you read this, the convoy protests will probably be over. It’s hard to agree or disagree with the cause, since the cause itself seemed to evolve as the protest took shape. It started out as resistance to Ottawa’s rule that unvaccinated truckers returning to Canada had to isolate. I heard from quite a few of you that you didn’t like that rule, given it was already hard enough to get supplies. But then the protest seemed to widen out into a general demand to end COVID measures, then, as of this writing, has gotten to where some organizers appear to be calling for the overthrow of the federal government. The Middle Ages had the Grim Reaper – we’ve got swastika flags and people peeing on the National War Memorial.
I’ll leave it to you to judge the righteousness or lack thereof of the convoy for yourself. But what is undeniable is that it has caused quite a bit of business disruption and expense for every nearby company. And also some not so nearby, as the blockading of the border in Windsor caused massive backups and delays that would affect anyone in Ontario travelling or sending or receiving shipments to the U.S.
As a guy who edits a business magazine, that’s what I’m not a fan of. Disorder and chaos is the biggest enemy we have. Business owners can adapt to almost anything and solve just about any problem, given time. What we cannot deal with effectively are problems that change rapidly from day to day, causing solutions developed the day before to become useless or even counterproductive. That said, even rapidly changing conditions can be dealt with if we know they are coming. Uncertainty is the ultimate threat.
That principle, like so many others, has been starkly illustrated during the pandemic. It was amazing to me to to watch the readers of this magazine, after a short pause to evaluate the new circumstances, burst into action in early 2020 to reorganize everything you did in order to be able to carry on under the new restrictions. It wasn’t long before business was humming along again and something like a feeling of uncomfortable normality settled in around the masks and distancing and inability to go into a client’s home. Ironically, I feel like it’s worse now as vaccination makes people wonder how many of the restrictions we need to retain, which makes governments constantly adjust rules according to the shifting pressures of medical science and public opinion. The convoy itself was sparked by a sudden change to the rules. As I try to plan events and travel through the rest of the year, it’s certainly been worse to not know if I’ll be able to do these things than to have a certain answer one way or the other.
Certainty is going to be hard to come by. But if governments and public health authorities are looking for ways to help, they can start by doing what they can to lay out as clear a road map as possible for when and how we will exit this thing.
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