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The 2020 Pandemic: Canada`s Greatest Challenge

B.A. Political Science, Member of®
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing the decisive test of his premiership with the management of the pandemic. Justin Trudeau defines this challenge as the ¨fight of a generation¨. The Prime Minister pleas to Canadians to actively participate in this war against COVID 19. For instance, he wants Canadians wear masks to protect themselves and others. This is a major tool because the virus spreads mainly through aerosols. Besides, the Trudeau government has secured vaccine candidates to have a national vaccination to end the pandemic in Canada and throughout the World. The Trudeau government has a strong plan to have sustainable economy to go through these tough times. No one will be left behind, thanks to changes in the unemployment insurance program improved to respond to the needs of people affected by the current events.

Prime Minister Trudeau tells Canadians that the nation has more tools in the toolbox; we now know how to protect ourselves against the virus which by wearing masks, social distancing, using COVID Alert, getting a flu shot, and hand washing. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Trudeau should not only empower Canadians, he should be more proactive in the national government response because the virus is still spreading throughout the nation. Provinces have failed to stop the spread of the virus; lockdowns have been failures.

To begin with, this is not the first time Canada fights a coronavirus pandemic like SARS COV 2. Canada fought and won against the SARS COV 1 in the early 2000s. Nevertheless, the predecessor of COVID 19 infected about 10,000 people worldwide which is nothing compared to the novel coronavirus that almost infected 35 million in the World as of October 4, 2020. Canada had 251 confirmed cases which is nothing compared to the scale of the COVID 19 outbreaks throughout the nation. The SARS COV 1 vanished from Earth after nearly two years. some experts think that SARS COV 1 burned itself out, but the true story is more complex than this rumour. Still, SARS COV 1 was not as highly infectious as SARS COV 2. The pandemic was largely brought under control by simple public health measures. Public health authorities around the World tested people, isolated and quarantined sick people along with some travel restrictions. Besides, there was not reported cases of asymptomatic virus carriers. Thus, the SARS COV 1 pandemic was easily stopped by public health authorities.

Nowadays, Canada faces a much greater health crisis than the SARS COV 1 pandemic that was brought under control by Canadian and World health officials which is the COVID 19 pandemic. British Prime Minister Johnson described this great World challenge as ¨the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes. ¨Unlike the SARS COV 1 contagion, The 2020 pandemic crisis has been poorly managed by Canadian public health authorities from coast to coast. Even though, there have been several epidemics prevention and control approaches used by several nations, but most of them failed to stop the spread of COVID 19. For instance, Canada and Australia used a suppression approach to get rid of COVID 19 while the United Kingdom intended a herd immunity which later be revealed as unrealistic and dangerous for people`s health. Canada failed to get ahead of the pandemic. The national government started to repatriate Canadians abroad, but the government did not impose rigorous containment through strict quarantine rules. Ottawa could have invoked the full authority of the Quarantine Act, but it considered that such a decision would put too much pressure on public health resources according to ¨Beyond COVID 19¨ written by Canadian and international scholars such as: Arjen Boin, Kathy Brock, Jonathan Craft, John Halligan, Paul ‘t Hart, etc. However, the Government of Canada did not act quickly enough in order to stop the pandemic.

Besides, the government decided not to invoke that Emergencies Act which could have given useful executive instruments in order to have a more comprehensive response to COVID 19. The ¨Beyond 19¨ report reveals that ¨it could only be invoked if the federal government proclaimed that the COVID‐19 situation constituted a `public welfare emergency` after consultations with the provinces had yielded intergovernmental agreement that the situation exceeded “the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it.¨ Unfortunately, provinces poorly managed the pandemic, the virus was spreading in long term facilities in Ontario and Quebec. Queen`s Park and Quebec City did not require caregivers to wear personal protective equipment and masks were not mandatory in the general population at the beginning. On the other hand, Ottawa was not proactive enough in the response of COVID 19; The Trudeau government could have intervened in healthcare systems in order to protect the most vulnerable. Asymptomatic super spreaders were known to decision makers at the beginning of the crisis. Besides, the national and provincial governments could have focused more on testing asymptomatic people because they can spread the novel coronavirus throughout the nation.

Moreover, Canada’s action to fight the novel virus was mainly through a national lockdown to flatten the curve. Ottawa and the provinces knew that the Canadian healthcare system was not robust enough to sustain an overwhelmed demand of patients caused by the COVID 19 infections. As a result, Ottawa was very proactive in financially supporting Canadians during the national lockdown. The Government of Canada created the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Program that provided cheques of $2,000 to Canadians affected by the lockdown.  The loss of tax income and the total cost of this assistance program created a $342.2 billion dollar deficit for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The expenses due to the pandemic could make the national debt being unsustainable by the Government of Canada. The Trudeau government has to find ways to contain expenses and to protect the nation`s economy. Moreover, the pandemic could create a very major World economic crisis due to social distancing and high infection rates.

Therefore, the Canadian economy has been hit very hard by the pandemic. Canadians enjoyed a prosperous economic period with a very low unemployment. The Canadian economic activity was limited by social distancing rules throughout the nation. Unemployment rate almost reached 14% which is the highest unemployment rate since the 1970s. Most Sports events and music festivals were cancelled. This has been a disaster for Canadians working in these sectors. The restaurant industry goes through a very tough time due social distancing rules. What is unique to this recession is that it was caused by deliberate self harm aimed at saving lives from the spread of the novel coronavirus.  

Finally, Prime Minister Trudeau empowers Canadians to protect themselves from COVID 19 through a national address. Justin Trudeau argues if people are united, they will be stronger to overcome these uncertain times: ¨we know that we are stronger when we come together and when we help each other. We face challenges together¨. The Prime Minister knows that the war on the global pandemic can only be won if Canadians remain united and if they work together. Nevertheless, the head of government has to be more proactive in this fight against COVID 19. A second wave of the pandemic started in Canada in late August and the provinces did not see it coming. The virus is aerosol particles which means it can simply spread by talking. N95 respirators and other efficient masks can prevent the virus from spreading among the population. As a result, Ottawa should distribute these protective masks to the general population. Canadian public health officials took a very long time to tell people that COVID 19 mainly spread through aerosol particles. This method of transmission was made public by the Journal of New England Medicine, a prestigious peered reviewed medical journal, in as early as April despite the fact the public health authorities did not impose masks before summer to prevent aerosol transmissions of the virus. Besides, national testing is the key weapon to slow the spread before the widespread availability of a COVID 19 vaccine. As well, the Trudeau government makes changes to the Unemployment Insurance Program in order to provide a safe financial bridge between the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit Program and the labour market. Besides, Ottawa does want Canadians work while they are sick; therefore, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit aims at preventing sick people from working and to encourage them to self isolate due to the novel coronavirus. In sum, the Trudeau government has to find ways to avoid further lockdowns and to end the pandemic from coast to coast.

October 4, 2020



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This article is part of

Vallee, Yannick, B.
By Yannick B. Vallee

Yannick B. Vallee is a political scientist who recently graduated from Bishop’s University (Quebec, Canada) in the BA program of political science. He also has a college degree of Business Administration with a specialization in marketing. Nowadays,  he specializes in American, Canadian... (Read next)

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