National Post (National Edition)



• Canada’s industry minister says the country faces mounting mental health concerns that the government will have to address in 2021.

Navdeep Bains says he has heard more stories about the mental health of workers and entreprene­urs alongside needs for financial help to individual­s and businesses.

He says it is particular­ly the case in his Toronto-area riding that is home to Pearson Internatio­nal Airport, where local hotels and restaurant­s are also suffering from a drop in travel.

Bains tells The Canadian Press that he has seen the issue in his own home.

A father of two, Bains says the pandemic has taken its toll on his school-aged daughters from not being able to engage with friends and family.

Research by Statistics Canada through the pandemic has noted a decline in self-perceived mental health.

A study by the agency published in June suggested those more affected by the pandemic — such as women, those with compromise­d immune systems or chronic health conditions — were less likely to report better mental health.

“I'm hearing more and more stories and frankly, personally, I can relate to that,” Bains said of mental health concerns.

“It's an emerging issue not only in my riding — I suspect it's across the country as well. But it is clearly an issue that we have to deal with.”

Another Statistics Canada study released just before Christmas noted Canadians' measuremen­t of “life satisfacti­on” had dropped to its lowest level over two decades of comparable data.

The agency's studies were among several released this year about the mental health impacts from the economic and health crisis.

Federally, the government responded to the pandemic with unpreceden­ted spending that pushed the deficit to $381.6 billion, although the government's math says it could close in on $400 billion depending on the length and breadth of restrictio­ns and lockdowns.

For all that spending, Bains suggested there may be more that could be done to help sectors that don't cost money.

He noted the how the shift to remote work at home required a shift to focusing on “the plumbing” by updating legislativ­e and market frameworks around privacy laws.

He also announced the “50-30 challenge” just before the end of 2020 that asks organizati­ons to have 50 per cent of women on boards and in senior management.

The federal program also calls for 30 per cent of those positions to be filled by “under-represente­d groups” like racialized people, those living with disabiliti­es and Indigenous people.

Companies that show they have met the goal would land preferenti­al access to federal programs, and potentiall­y federal contracts.

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