Let’s start with the good news.
After a second wave whose peak was higher than the first, COVID-19 infection rates are falling across Canada. Closures, lockdowns and other public health measures are having an impact. There are fewer than half as many new COVID-19 cases as a month ago. In a race between virus and vaccines, and between vaccines and more virulent virus variants, Canada has slowed the enemy.
Which is a good thing, because Canada’s vaccination effort, which left the gate at a leisurely trot, has itself slowed to barely a walk.
On Thursday, Major-General Dany Fortin, the federal vaccine distribution czar, was tasked by his political masters with walking into hostile media fire, and admitting that the Trudeau government has no idea how many imported vaccine doses Canada will be receiving in the coming weeks.
And for all that, there’s still reason to believe that, in the long run, federal officials’ blithe optimism will be proved right, sort of. Canada will get enough vaccine, eventually. All Canadians will get their shots, eventually. It will happen more slowly than planned; the plan itself was slower paced than it should have been; Canada will finish the job far behind the most successful countries – but it will get done. Eventually. Good enough, right?
No, no, no.
For the past year, Canadians have been asked by governments, in Ottawa and most of the provinces, to be satisfied and even thankful for results ranging from “not all that bad, under the circumstances” to “hey, it could have been worse.” With the exception of Atlantic Canada – more on their shining example in a moment – our governments have too often displayed an appalling lack of urgency, and an urge to complacency.
Own The Podium Canada got owned by Bronze Medal Canada.
Thanks in part to that Can’t Do spirit, more than 20,000 Canadians are dead, and several thousand more of our friends and family – possibly many thousands more – will die in the coming months.
It did not have to be this way. As we pointed out yesterday, Canada’s southern twin, Australia, has recorded barely 900 virus deaths. No one has died since December.
Yet Canada and Australia started in the same place, at the same time. Australia’s first COVID-19 case was discovered on Jan. 25, in a traveller from China. Canada’s first case? Same source, same date.
Australia thereafter took tough measures within the country, and to prevent the introduction of new cases from overseas. It crushed the curve last spring, and life in most of Australia has been close to normal for quite some time.
In Canada, in contrast, most provincial governments were far more tentative. And Ottawa only last month began erecting border barriers similar to those Australia introduced nearly a year ago.
But you don’t have to look ten thousand miles away for Australian-style pandemic success. You just have to look at Nova Scotia.
Atlantic Canada has done a top-of-the-podium job of crushing COVID-19, and Nova Scotia’s story is particularly notable. The largest Maritime province has nearly a million people, similar to Saskatchewan. Its capital city is bigger than Regina or Saskatoon. Its international airport offered flights to cities in Canada and the United States, and destinations from the Caribbean to London, Paris and Frankfurt.
And like the rest of the country, Nova Scotia got whacked by the first wave. On April 23, it recorded 55 new cases of COVID-19. That’s equivalent to more than 800 cases a day in Ontario. Ontario’s first wave peaked on April 24 at 640 cases.
But Nova Scotia nevertheless planked the virus. It didn’t just bring cases down to a low level in the summer, as other provinces did. It brought them to zero. And it kept tough border measures. The province had a surge in the fall, like the rest of the country, but it was firmly suppressed. Nova Scotia is currently averaging one new case per day. It has exactly one person in the hospital with COVID-19. It hasn’t recorded a death since August. Its economy has contracted less than the rest of the country and life has been considerably more normal – open restaurants, open stores, open schools – than in most of the country.
Better was always possible in Canada. It still is.
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