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Why Did Quebec have Most of Canada’s Cases in 2020?

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B.A. Sciences poliitques, membre de®
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The pandemic management has been a challenge for Canadians. COVID 19 hit hard the province of Quebec led by the CAQ political party. Unfortunately, The Legault government poorly performed during the first wave of the novel coronavirus. Premier Legault was over confident about his government response to COVID 19. He ignored warnings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the novel coronavirus was spread mainly through aerosols instead of being transmitted by touching objects and surfaces. The CAQ did not have any effective strategy to fight the newly discovered pathogen Besides, the CAQ government failed to adapt social and economic activities to the new normal because humankind could have to live with the new pathogen for several months in 2021 and early 2022. For instance, the restaurant industry has been hit very hard by the pandemic because the Province decided to shut them down. However, health officials could have allowed outdoor terraces like in some other places in North America. In sum, there was a lack of creativity and adaptation by health officials. They preferred closing everything regardless of the social and economic outcomes. In short, the lockdowns could not stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Nowadays, there are arbitrary decisions about the pandemic management with little impacts on the spread of the pathogen.

                To begin with, Premier Legault started the global crisis with very high approval ratings. Terrance McKenna reveals that the Premier had a 95% approval rating which is almost unseen in Canadian politics. For that reason, Premier Francois Legault became overconfident about the potentials of his leadership and his government decisions; he felt that his government could settle this crisis alone. On the one hand, famous Astronaut Neil Armstrong says about overconfidence: ¨Well, I think we tried very hard not to be overconfident, because when you get overconfidence, that's when something snaps ups up and bites you. ¨Francois Legault had an overconfidence attitude and he did not work much with the other provincial premiers and the Canadian Prime Minister. Francois Legault criticized Prime Minister Trudeau because he wanted give funds to Quebec to buy more PPEs for workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities. Besides, Francois Legault did not want that Ottawa invokes the National Emergencies Act to have a more comprehensive response to COVID 19 in Canada. The Government of Canada has been very concerned about the rising COVID spikes in Quebec, the province had half of Canada`s total cases during most of 2020. As early as Spring, the federal government`s chief scientific adviser, Dr. Mona Nemer, was concerned that why Quebec was not providing any real plan to respond to the pandemic. Ottawa felt that the Province of Quebec was improvising a response in perhaps Canada`s worst crisis ever. The 2020 crisis was the time for Canadians to be united and the nation expected that provinces and the national government work together.

                As well, Health Canada and the Canadian Public Health Agency have the finest epidemic experts in the World, this expertise could have been used to end the pandemic in Quebec. Even though, the Legault government lost control of the pandemic in the provinces, it has never asked for any help from Ottawa other than the deployment of the Armed Forces in the long term care facilities. Prime Minister Trudeau wanted to give funds to Quebec to buy more PPEs, but the Premier told Trudeau that Quebec could do anything they want with Quebec’s share of the $14 billion in federal funds. Premier Legault did not want any string attached to the funds. Nevertheless, the national government has every right to attach strings to funds in order to end this pandemic hurting Canadians. In short, pandemic management is within the national jurisdiction. In sum, this sense of mistrust of the Legault government towards Ottawa limited the scope of intervention for Quebec City to properly respond to COVID 19. Besides, Quebec was very slow to use the COVID Alert national application, increasing its testing rate, and making mask mandatory.

                Furthermore, the CAQ government did not implement effective measures to fight COVID 19 in schools. Josh Freed, a Montreal Gazette columnist, wrote in October 2020 that ¨ Similarly in secondary schools, Mr. Premier, you waited too long to require masks, or reduce class sizes when other provinces had — and Quebec teachers were begging you to follow¨. Thus, Quebec has been very slow to adopt adequate COVID 19 measures in the elementary and high school systems. Besides, there was a lack of innovation in terms of finding new anti COVID measures in postsecondary levels. For instance, Rice University, a Houston university, provided in class learning in large tents which prevent COVID 19 from spreading. These 50 feet by 70 feet tents had air conditioning, heating systems, power outlets, and audiovisual systems. Several of these tents provided spaces for in class learning, student work group, and occasional events. Rice students were tested on a weekly basis. There had not been any COVID case reported on this university campus which is located in a COVID hotspot, Houston, TX USA. Therefore, there were ways that life can be back to normal without the virus spreads.

                Moreover, the Legault government ignored CDC warnings published as early as March 27th, 2020 that COVID 19 was spread mainly through aerosols. At that time, the U.S. scientific authority claimed was the novel coronavirus could spread when someone talks and sings. This was the time for the federal and provincial governments to distribute n95 masks to staff members in long term care facilities and hospitals. CBC’s Enquête revealed in Autumn 2020 that the Legault government did not require staff members in Long Term Facilities to wear personal protective equipment unless they had flu like symptoms. However, the CDC warned the World that this was time to use PPEs against aerosols. Nonetheless, the Quebec chief scientist, Dr. Horasio Arruda, was not concerned by these new data of airborne transmission provided by the U.S. health authorities. Also, the Public Health Agency of Canada acknowledged in November 2020 that the novel coronavirus spread mainly through aerosols that linger in the air. In sum, the federal and provincial governments ignored CDC warnings that asymptomatic people could transmit the novel coronavirus.

                On the other hand, the Province of British Columbia acted quickly to implement CDC guidelines, the CDC is a reference in pandemic management. British Columbia forbidden staff members to work in more than one long term care facility. They provided protective masks to senior home and healthcare workers. For instance, Dr. Samir Sinha, a Mount Sinai Hospital physician, informed the Province of Ontario about the asymptomatic transmission. Nevertheless, neither Ontario nor Quebec health authorities will consider that asymptomatic infection could occur. In contrast, the Province of British Columbia set plans to prevent asymptomatic transmission from occurring in long term care facilities and hospitals. B.C. learned something very valuable in pandemic management which was to act quickly based on all available scientific dates. Therefore, the B.C. health authorities were very successful in fighting COVID 19 during the first wave. They acted quickly and they knew the actions that should be taken to fight the novel coronavirus.

                As well, the CAQ government did not properly realized that they did not manage properly managed the crisis. The 2020 pandemic is serious for Canadians and Quebec has to outperform expectations. Unfortunately, Premier Francois Legault told Montreal’s La Presse on December 3,2020 that he made no mistake about the pandemic management. He claimed that he earned a 100% grade as a head of the crisis management. As a result, Parti Quebecois MLA Pascal Bérubé reminded the Premier that the CAQ government could not prevent 7,000 people from dying of the novel coronavirus infection. Bérubé said that the Premier’s claims of a perfect grade were ¨insulting and particularly pretentious¨. Pascal Bérubé told the press that the CAQ government was too slow to make mask mandatory provincewide, the CAQ did not test enough and the CAQ testing strategy was a mess, and the Legault government did not protect the long-term facilities from the pandemic. Besides, Alec Castonguay, a L’Actualité columnist, asked the Quebec Premier in November 2020: ¨Did you make a mistake? The Premier answered that he did not make any mistake. As a result, the provincial premier cannot understand why his province has the most cases of the nation. Nevertheless, the CAQ government had the worst pandemic management in Canada.

                Finally, the provincial government was too slow to implement proper health measures to stop the spread of the virus. For instance, the CAQ government took a very long time to use the rapid tests claiming that Health Canada’s accreditation, the country’s highest health authority, was not enough to make sure rapid tests are efficient. We feel that Legault does not trust the national government despite Ottawa paid the lion’s share of the pandemic expenses. Moreover, Legault did not want that Trudeau makes national standards for long term cases. The Province of Quebec did not provide personal protective equipment to long term care facilities staff members while the novel coronavirus is spread through aerosols. In sum, the CAQ could have found ways to help people to protect themselves against this airborne virus. The Province took almost a year to provide n95 masks to all hospital staff members.  Moreover, the CAQ government failed to adapt the social and economic lives to the new normal. The Province could have encouraged outdoor activities while limiting indoor activities. SARS COV 2 cannot spread outdoor, but is highly infectious indoor. Instead, the CAQ government implemented a curfew to prevent people from going outside. The curfew has had no known impact on the pandemic; we should rather adapt ourselves to the new normal like by promoting outdoor activities, giving n95 masks to everyone, encouraging people to work outdoor, and educating people about SARS COV 2. To conclude, Quebec had the most of Canada’s cases because it did not properly inform hospital staff members that the novel virus was airborne; n95 masks would have been required in hospitals and in senior homes. Besides, the Legault government mistrusted the federal government when Ottawa provided funds to provinces to buy PPEs for healthcare and long term care workers.


February 18, 2021

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Vallee, Yannick B.
par Yannick B. Vallee

Yannick B. Vallée est un politicologue, diplômé de l’Université Bishop's (Lennoxville, Québec, Canada), détenteur du baccalauréat en science politique. De plus, il a un diplôme d’études collégiales en Techniques administrative (option : marketing) de Champlain St. Lawrence College, au Québec. Il s’intéresse... (Lire la suite)

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