When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced travel restrictions aimed at thwarting new strains of COVID-19 from entering the country, he no doubt expected a big round of applause.
He’s probably still straining to detect a single clap.
This is not because Canadians don’t believe that the edicts intended to discourage spring break travellers from jetting off to sunnier climes are justified. Rather, they believe it’s something that should have been done much earlier.
That sound you hear is of anger simmering across the country. People are sick and tired of this bloody disease, yes. But they’ve also had it with the incompetence of our political leaders, not to mention their shocking lack of spine.
What the federal government did in announcing the new travel constraints was read the room. Finally. The majority of Canadians are following pandemic protocols. They are doing right by their neighbours and loved ones. And yet they see very little being done to curb the activities of those who believe they are above such inconveniences. Those who believe they’re not harming anyone by flying off to Hawaii or Arizona at Christmastime. Or the Azores or the Maldives in March.
So now these folks who decide to fly off over spring break against the pleading of the federal government will have to quarantine for a few days upon their return at their own expense. A tab of about $2,000 per person. But if they test positive after that period, they are moved to a government facility to complete their quarantine at taxpayers’ expense.
I’m sorry. Why are taxpayers picking up the cost of the remainder of their quarantine? If these people go off on holiday against Ottawa’s wishes, pick up a disease that kills people and bring it back into this country, why are we picking up any of the cost of their quarantine?
Do you want to know what makes regular Canadians angry? Especially those who are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage or even put food on the table? It’s garbage such as this. We are the biggest suckers in the world, honestly.
Let’s face it: Canada has done a terrible job handling this crisis. And it’s not because a majority of people haven’t been prepared to make sacrifices. Most have. It’s because our response has been a mishmash of false starts and half measures.
Part of me can almost sympathize with Mr. Trudeau. Almost every analysis of how countries are doing when it comes to fighting COVID-19 puts Canada in the poor-to-middling category. That’s not entirely the fault of Ottawa. In fact, the provinces deserve most of the blame.
If Mr. Trudeau were to even hint at bringing down the power of the federal government through the Emergencies Act – something that would be necessary to halt interprovincial traffic, for instance – there would be a full-on mutiny by many premiers, most of them of a conservative persuasion.
So instead we plod along with one of the most disjointed pandemic responses in the world, with each province doing its own thing while most borders remain open to whomever may want to drop in with the virus.
Canadian politicians outside the Maritimes want it both ways: keep the economy humming and slay the virus at the same time. Doesn’t work that way. It hasn’t worked that way anywhere in the world. The only way it works is if you suppress the virus and then build a wall around your city or country. Then you can continue on as normal – well, maybe not normal.
That’s what they did in New Zealand and a few other places. If you want to know what pandemic crisis leadership looks like, let me introduce you to Perth, Australia, population two million. The city recently went into a snap, five-day lockdown after one case of COVID-19 was reported. One.
Australia, of course, went into a long, hard lockdown early on and then built a regulatory wall around itself. Australians returning to the country were forced to quarantine in government-operated hotels with soldiers stationed outside.
In Canada, we haven’t been able to agree on rapid testing or COVID-19 apps or quarantine measures or which businesses can be open or whether kids should be in school. Fines for scofflaws are so puny, they act as no deterrent at all. It’s just this depressing collage of ineffective and often confusing policies guaranteed to produce a mediocre response to a public-health emergency.
On that front, we’ve done brilliantly.
The Globe and Mail
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