The global COVID‑19 pandemic has provoked reflection about what matters most to people, and the impact of government actions and investments on citizens' health, income security and quality of life.
The crisis has demonstrated that what matters most to Canadians is not always easily measured or described in economic or financial terms. In addition to the health and safety of Canadians, the crisis has drawn attention to a range of quality of life issues such as mental health, family violence, access to green space, social connections, job security, access to childcare and the quality of long-term care. It has also highlighted longstanding inequalities, low-paid essential work, gender imbalances in caregiving responsibilities, and gaps in Canada's social safety net.
Similarly, protests last summer against systemic racism sparked by incidents of excessive use of force by police have raised important questions about racial inequality, justice and how to properly respond to and assist individuals experiencing mental health crises.
This focus on quality of life issues isn't new. Over the last decade, several developments have amplified long-standing concerns that standard economic statistics, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), do not provide a full picture of societal progress. This has prompted governments around the world to pay increased attention to other dimensions that matter to peoples' quality of life, including greater equality and environmental protection, alongside traditional measures of economic performance.
The Government of Canada has also been taking these factors into account in its decision-making, including in its COVID‑19 Economic Response Plan, whose measures all reflect careful consideration of impacts on Canadians from a variety of angles and a strong focus on the prosperity and quality of life of all Canadians.
Before the pandemic, the Prime Minister mandated the Honourable Mona Fortier, the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance, to lead work across government to better incorporate quality of life measurements into government decision-making and budgeting. Monitoring and reporting on a broader set of measurements, rather than just on standard economic ones, aims to better ensure that government actions are coordinated and that decisions are evidence-based, with investments focussed on areas that have the greatest impact on Canadians' quality of life. It would also improve policy coherence, transparency and accountability with respect to government priorities, objectives and results.
Quality of life data and evidence are powerful tools that can help achieve this goal in a coherent way. That is why the government is working on a Quality of Life Framework that would put a more holistic and comprehensive evidence base at the centre of government decision-making, both now and over the longer term.
Canada can benefit from the innovative work done by jurisdictions such as New Zealand and Scotland in this space. But there is also deep expertise in Canada, and Canadians have made a substantial contribution to the international dialogue about quality of life measurement. A truly useful Canadian framework to guide government actions and investments must reflect objective evidence on universal factors that affect well-being as well as factors of special importance in Canada such as our geographic dispersion, connection to the land, bilingualism, diversity, and Indigenous culture and languages. That's why the government has worked over the past year to ensure that quality of life (or 'well-being') is defined and measured in a way that accurately reflects the diverse views and lived experiences of Canadians, as well as expert advice on the drivers of well-being, and will continue to seek input to ensure the framework remains meaningful.
Towards a Quality of Life Strategy for Canada lays the foundation for a dialogue on how to move forward with this approach. This report:
- outlines the rationale for adopting a quality of life approach to government decision-making;
- describes international experiences and best practice;
- discusses key considerations in the design of a quality of life framework;
- summarizes what we have learned from consultations with experts and Canadians thus far;
- presents a first iteration of a Quality of Life Framework for Canada; and,
- lays out next steps for its ongoing implementation.