The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had a massive impact on waits for elective operations, with tens of thousands of scheduled surgeries being cancelled or postponed across Canada. Provincial governments will likely not only reopen elective surgical capacity when it is deemed safe, but also target new funding to address the backlog of cases. There is a dearth of research on whether the provinces’ approaches to managing wait lists are equitable from a patients’ needs perspective or if they are associated with patients’ perception of outcomes. The surgical cost models used in the past won’t be useful to governments and hospital managers. New models based on hospitals’ marginal costs, associated with running on weekends or off-hours and social distancing parameters, will be needed. Surgeon input, collaboration and leadership during the strategy development, implementation and management of surgical wait lists post pandemic will be imperative, as these decisions will significantly affect the health and lives of many Canadians.