Canada’s doomsday approach a stark contrast to what’s happening in other parts of the world

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As medical specialists ratchet up the message of concern around the virulent spread of the COVID variants, the public is simply not listening.

By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on April 19, 2021.

The naked member’s member was discreetly blocked by a phone in another first for Canadian parliamentary procedure last week.

Obviously, the Liberal Member of Parliament from Pontiac, Que., was mortified when he learned his parliamentary camera accidentally caught him in his birthday suit.

Will Amos issued an embarrassed apology which was immediately accepted by Chief Government Whip Mark Holland, responsible for upholding decorum on the government side of the House of Commons.

Other parties jumped in to make sure this historic moment was shared with a wider audience, as the first screening was limited to an internal parliamentary committee feed.

Colleagues offered, tongue-in-cheek, to lend clothing to Amos, and the Bloc even raised a question of parliamentary privilege because Amos’ requisite suit and tie was absent from the filming.

In Amos’ defence, he claimed he had just gone for a run and was getting changed to prepare for committee when the rogue camera lens went viral.

His flub went beyond Canada, making international headlines in many parts of the world.

It was a welcome respite from the doomsday scenario playing out daily in Canada’s fight against COVID.

As medical specialists ratchet up the message of concern around the virulent spread of the COVID variants, the public is simply not listening.

Most of the dramatic messaging saturating the airwaves 24 hours a day, appears to be falling on deaf ears as Canadians have abandoned the stay-at-home strategies of the past 14 months.

With the weather warming up, young people are trying to reconnect with friends by gathering in parks and open spaces. In some instances, these super-spreader events have simply ignored any attempt to limit their social contacts, and we have seen the spread of the virus through indiscriminate crowds gathering in all provinces.

Canada’s doomsday approach has actually been seen in stark contrast to what is happening in other parts of the world.

The United States has already opened up international and domestic travel to those who have been fully vaccinated, and their rate of vaccination is moving closer to full herd immunity.

In addition, Canada is languishing in 11th place in the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s COVID misery index.

The tool compares health outcomes from all diseases in 15 “peer” nations and analyses the success or failure of a lock-down versus vaccination strategy.

At last count, Canada ranked 11 among the 15 with the worst death rate amongst those over 85 years of age, and those aged 15 and over. While COVID-related deaths are low, threats to life and health in other areas have been exacerbated by delayed treatment.

Canada also ranks 11th in overall full-dose vaccinations, but that number jumps to second when considering the percentage of the population that has already received a first vaccine.

The United States is the only country with more vaccinations, but our southern neighbour has also issued directives for those who have been fully vaccinated.

Canada continues to treat fully vaccinated citizens with the same rules as those that apply to non-vaccinated people.

What is the point of vaccinating if the benefits of doing so are not shared by the Canadian population?

The Government of Canada still requires vaccinated Canadians with a current COVID-free test result to remain in quarantine when returning from an international trip.

Neither science nor medicine can provide a single health-related reason for this isolation, so it is little wonder that the public health officials who are informing Canadians about COVID health risks have been largely tuned out.

Prince Edward Island Liberal MP Wayne Easter put the situation best when he said that Americans are moving full steam ahead, while Canadians are subject to the “fear factor” in their desire to keep even internal borders closed.

Just last week, the Atlantic premiers agreed to collectively extend the prohibition against visitors for another two weeks, with May 3 now cited as the date to reopen unquarantined travel.

Almost a month ago, Easter issued a call to begin the process for opening up the borders.

In March, Alaskan Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan introduced legislation intended to permit cruise ships to enter their borders while bypassing Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a one-year moratorium on cruising last February.

After the Air Canada bailout announced last week, expect more airlines and more industries to line up with their hands out to cover their Covid losses.

One way to avoid massive bailouts is to vaccinate enough people to secure herd immunity.

Otherwise, Canadians will simply choose to ignore the droning COVID doomsayers.

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.