When was the last time you saw those three words in a sentence?
Applied to Ottawa?
In a pandemic?
Our expectation of speedy service from any government, let alone the Feds, is so low that anything short of craven indifference is hailed as miraculous.
Perhaps it’s time we put this bias aside.
When Ottawa announced CERB, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, I applied. My company had lost 80% of its revenues in March. No travels for RamsayTravels, no talks (at least live ones) for RamsayTalks, and a tiny stream of work for Ramsay Inc. I was effectively out of work.
The day after the Prime Minister announced the program, I talked to my business manager and accountant. Both said apply, and I did. I didn’t hear anything back, but not 10 days later, there was a mystery deposit in my bank account.
Then on March 27, Ottawa announced a second program called the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy. This was for companies who’ve lost most of their revenues because of the pandemic. I talked to my business manager and accountant. They said apply and we’ll sort it out if it turns out you’re double-dipping. So I applied, and a week later my business manager got a phone message from CRA saying they needed to speak to me and asking for the best contact number.
She gave them the number and before she had time to let me know what was happening, my phone rang and a cheery woman said she was calling from the Canada Revenue Agency. She’d just been speaking with my business manager but was now calling me because only I was allowed to answer her next questions.
She seemed very pleasant and I heard young kids playing in the background.
She said that she was working from home and calling from her mobile phone and was I okay with her doing that because a mobile phone isn’t as secure as a landline.
She seemed strangely friendly and I asked her how long she’d been working at CRA. She replied: “I’ve been with the federal government for 9 years.”
I learned later that when the CRA saw that it had to vastly expand its workforce to help taxpayers with the application process, 7,500 public servants who were considered non-essential volunteered to work the phones. Clearly, this woman was one of them.
She was very cheery and I was happy to answer her questions.
This was no faceless bureaucrat.
In fact, she was more like a concierge at the Four Seasons. I felt she really cared about me and all of us.
So as we rang off, I said to her:
“I just want to say one thing….”
“Yes, Mr. Ramsay?”
“Thank God we live in Canada.”
“I agree,” she said. “Have a good day.”
And we hung up.
I tucked that call away as one of the odd lovely memories of this whole pandemic.
Three days later, a deposit arrived in my bank account.
But then yesterday, a friend sent me a Macleans article by Nick Taylor-Vaisey, titled “Pulling off a bureaucratic miracle: How the CERB got done.”
It tells the story of how Ottawa got money into the hands of Canadians in record time. I urge you to read it, and as you do, keep in mind what’s happening in America around people getting money from Washington, and in Britain, and in all those other countries where governments aren’t viewed as slightly dotty relatives who mean well but don’t move that fast, but as the enemies of the people.
As I said: “Thank God we live in Canada.”