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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent much of his daily press conference on Thursday urging Canadians to continue to self-isolate and practise social distancing. He empathized with the difficulties these efforts cause, and suggested people call friends or family members who are having a hard time of it.

He also said that Ottawa and the provinces intend to do a better job of sharing data, including models suggesting the various possible paths of Canada’s COVID-19 outbreak, how severe it might or might not get, and how many people could become infected and die.

“But the biggest variable in shaping these projections is you and your behaviour,” he added. “It’s up to you to do the right thing. … What the experts are telling us is that we must do everything we can today and tomorrow to set us on the right path for next week and next month.”

Even if it’s true, telling Canadians that they are the nation’s biggest exogenous data variable is not exactly Churchillian oratory. Nor is urging them to "do the right thing.”

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Winston Churchill did not go on the radio during the Second World War to advise citizens that statistical modelling suggested their personal behaviour would flatten the curve of Nazi aggression and influence the outcome of the war in Europe.

Instead, Churchill put things in a way that inspired people to embrace the challenges ahead, rather than endure them sheepishly.

He did so by making it clear what was at stake, and what people were fighting for. He appealed to their courage, their pride and their history, and asked them to march alongside him, not to simply do as they were told and await further instruction.

Where is Canada’s “we shall socially distance on the beaches, we shall socially distance in the parks, we shall self-isolate in our living rooms and basements" moment?

Canadians have instead repeatedly been told that staying home is necessary to reduce the number of new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections, thereby preventing our health care system and its workers from being overwhelmed by a surge of patients.

As well, we are reminded daily that our personal behaviour will influence how many people will fall sick and die, and how long self-isolation and the shutdown of the economy will need to continue.

In other words, don’t be selfish, people. That’s true, but not the most inspiring appeal to our better natures. Instead, it’s a hectoring message from a government keeping a two-metre distance between itself and the people whose support it needs.

It’s a wasted opportunity. Canadians are an educated and proud people, willing to do what is right, and what is necessary, when called upon.

We will overcome this trial because our country has triumphed over adversity in the past. Canadians will show courage, generosity and solidarity in a crisis. And we will willingly and selflessly forego our usual freedoms and comforts if given well-enunciated reasons. Such as:

To not give aid to an unseen enemy by becoming its agent of transmission.

To save the lives of thousands of our fellow Canadians.

To save the lives of doctors, nurses and other health care workers, and give hospitals breathing room to properly care for the sick.

To give governments time to acquire needed medical equipment.

To give researchers time to develop antibodies and, eventually, a vaccine.

To protect Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa.

To bring us closer to the day when children can go back to school. To allow a restart of the economy, as soon as possible.

Perhaps we are being old-fashioned. Earnestness and patriotism are not very fashionable anymore. But what will never go out of date is the need for leaders to connect with ordinary people during a crisis. Canadians need to know not just what is asked of them, but why, and how, and for how long.

And a little poetry? It wouldn’t hurt. It’s not surprising that some Canadians aren’t embracing a message that tells them their highest duty is to help bend a curve plotted on a linear scale.

We are, and always have been, capable of so much more.

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