Message from the Executive Director

 About Heather               About CTF            
 Archives   
   

April 2021


Hello to all CTF members—

Last month marked one year since COVID-19 brought the first lockdown to most Canadians. This is certainly not an anniversary to celebrate. But as the vaccination campaign ramps up and we begin to anticipate a post-pandemic life, it seems appropriate to reflect on events of the last year and to consider the path forward, including any changes we have made that, though they were compelled by a crisis that will soon be past, may be worth preserving.

I have previously observed that during the pandemic, in the absence of many of the familiar milestones and patterns of regular life, the passage of time is difficult to gauge. It seems that predictions are also difficult. In my message from late March 2020, I advised our members that a decision had been made to temporarily close the Foundation offices as of March 12 but that we hoped to re-open on April 6. The widely held expectation at that time was that a lockdown of a couple of weeks’ duration would be sufficient to resolve the situation. That was perhaps the first lesson of the pandemic—namely, that its course would defy expectations.

Fortunately, there have been other, more positive lessons of the past year that will, I think, prove durable. By drawing on these lessons, we can do better, post-COVID, in several areas.

Here at the Foundation, we were delighted by the strong support for our virtual conference offerings. We have offered live webcasts for many years in parallel with in-person attendance at many of our events, but during 2020 we went fully online. This delivery model dramatically improved accessibility for many people by eliminating travel costs and offering flexible, on-demand viewing. Analysis of delegate data reveals significantly increased attendance among younger practitioners, government and industry professionals, and those from smaller and more remote centres across Canada. Serving the full Canadian tax community is an important part of our mandate. Going forward, as we return to the possibility of in-person events, we will also be working to ensure that accessibility is not compromised and that we continue to innovate in our delivery of programs.

Collaboration and nimbleness were also hallmarks of the past year. The federal and provincial governments moved swiftly to develop and roll out a variety of programs designed to provide relief from the economic ravages of the pandemic. There was robust dialogue with stakeholders from across the tax and business community, and opportunities to provide timely input and reaction. Not all of the issues could be fully resolved, of course, but in most cases the outcomes were improved by the abundant communication and feedback. I am optimistic that this constructive experience will endure as a model for future engagement and continued improvement of our tax system.

On a related note, the central role of tax policy and the reciprocal obligations of government and taxpayers also came to the fore during the pandemic. As I write this message, we are anticipating the first federal budget in two years, which will be released on April 19. There is great interest in this budget, to put it mildly, and I expect to discuss the budget’s content in future messages. For now, I will simply observe that the post-pandemic landscape poses not only fiscal challenges but also meaningful opportunities. (For those who are interested in reading more on this topic, see the September issue of our newsletter Perspectives on Tax Law & Policy.)

The final area that I would like to mention is the workplace. The pandemic lockdowns have affected Canadian workers in different ways, depending on their line of work. We are all grateful for the contributions of essential workers, often provided at considerable personal risk. Other Canadians—including many tax professionals—have been able to work remotely, typically from their homes, and to leverage technology to connect with colleagues and clients. Working from home has been a mixed experience. Many have found themselves very productive, and those in large cities have been able to avoid lengthy commutes. The downsides of remote work include technology challenges (for example, the poor internet speed in much of Canada), the blurring of personal and professional time, and a sense of disconnection from colleagues. For parents, there have been additional demands, such as supervising remote schooling.

Overall, two aspects of remote work seem to be very positive, and many anticipate that they will carry over into post-pandemic life. The first is flexibility: the last year has shown that travelling to an office every day is not strictly required for many jobs. The second is the rapid adoption of the technology necessary to perform in a remote, flexible environment and to enable individuals to collaborate despite being based in many locations. In the coming year, as post-pandemic life begins, it will be most interesting to observe the patterns and protocols adopted in the traditional office (including whether “business attire” makes a comeback).

See you next month.

 

Heather L. Evans,
Executive Director and CEO