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Canada`s Response to the Global Pandemic

B.A. Political Science, Member of®
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The Canadian nation has fought many battles like the Great War, the Spanish Flu, World War 2, and the Korean War. Canadians are fighters; they inherited this quality from the United Kingdom and France. The novel coronavirus outbreak is the greatest challenge for Canada since World War 2. This new virus is extremely infectious and it can be deadly for some people with underlying health conditions. Canada has work with other nations to contain the virus in order to slow down the contagion. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the nation: ¨this is a global challenge. To keep Canadians safe and restart our economy, we need to defeat this virus not just within our borders, but wherever it is found. That’s how we’ll beat COVID-19 for good.¨ As a result, the Trudeau government partners with other nations in order to overcome the gigantic challenges with this pandemic. The Canadian strategy is to contain and to stop the virus within Canadian borders and elsewhere. Nevertheless, there are different inconsistencies in the crisis management between different regions of the nation. Canada should invoke the National Emergencies Act to take proper actions to stop the spread of the virus in regions that could not like Quebec and Ontario. As well, the government should make a ¨war cabinet¨ made up of senior ministers, indigenous leaders, and provincial premiers to better coordinate an effective and efficient national response to COVID 19. On the other hand, the national government greatly supported financial needs of Canadians through transfer payments to people and businesses. Yet, only the widespread availability of a vaccine will solve this health crisis. For that reason, Canada needs to build more vaccine factories to increase its manufacturing capacity of vaccines.

                To begin with, the human race has often been challenged throughout its history by pandemics. These health battles have often ended by failures. Thus, the Time Ghost History channel argues that: ¨we have pretty much lost the war on pandemics for thousands of years, and if we manage to limit the damage of the current outbreak it will be the first time in history that humanity puts up an effective fight against a pandemic.¨ As a result, Canada needs to effectively use all its scientific and medical resources to fight COVID 19. Canada needs to work with other nations to stop the spread of a new virus. Canada has the medical expertise to find scientific breakthroughs to cure COVID 19; the nation has the technology to develop the right vaccine to put an end to the pandemic. Besides, the World economy greatly suffers from the Pandemic. Warren Buffet, a famous investor, discusses the Pandemic during the 2020 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting: ¨In 2008 and ’09, our economic train went off the tracks, and there were some reasons why the…was weak in terms of the banks and all of that sort of thing. But anyway, this time we just pulled the train off the tracks and put it on a siding, and I don’t really know of any parallel...¨ This means that the economic recession and high unemployment rates were not due to poor economic performance, but this due to a deliberate global economic shut down. Nevertheless, Warren Buffett is hopeful that the U.S. will prevail over the Pandemic: ¨the American magic has always prevailed, and it will do so again.¨ The Canadian economy highly depends on the U.S. economy and Canada needs to wake up its economy to take advantage of the new upcoming economic opportunities on the U.S. and World markets.

                Nevertheless, COVID 19 is not the only time that Canada fights a global pandemic. There was the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu that was a devastating time in Canadian history. At the time, the disease arrived in Canada through the ports of Quebec City, Montreal, and Halifax. The Canadian military troops spread the virus throughout the country at the end of the Great War. The National Department of Health was created to respond to the pandemic. The purpose of this national health department was to provide resources and to coordinate public health authorities throughout the nation. Besides, provincial and municipal governments prohibited gatherings. They isolated the sick; nevertheless, these actions had little effect on the pandemic. One of the reasons that Canada`s response to the pandemic had little effect was that there was no quarantine imposed on travellers coming to Canada. The outcome of this health crisis was that both levels of governments would share in the future some responsibilities in public health in order to protect Canadians from any future pandemic and various health challenges. In 2020, Canada goes through an outbreak of a highly contagious pathogen. Consequently, every Canadian province has declared a state of emergency by mid-March to stop the COVID 19 spread in Canada. Schools and daycares closed in almost all parts of the country. Large gatherings became illegal. Canadians coming back to Canada has to undergo quarantine with respect to the National Quarantine Act. Canadian borders are restricted to Canadian nationals and essential workers. Self-isolation was compulsory for travellers at Canadian airports.

                As well, the only way to end the crisis is to have a vaccine for everyone. For that reason, Canada invests $1.1 billion on developing and producing vaccines to stop the COVID 19 spread in Canada and in the World. Besides, Canada needs to be able to produce on a very large scale a vaccine no matter who develops the needed vaccine. Ottawa needs to build vaccine factories to to supply enough vaccine doses for everyone. The research and development of a COVID 19 vaccine is the main battle to get rid of COVID 19 on the planet. Therefore, Canada hopes to find a vaccine and a cure as soon as possible. Fortunately, Oxford University has a safe and effective vaccine. For that reason, the British Swedish firm, AstraZeneca, has started to produce 2 billion doses of this promising vaccine. Canada expects to have a national vaccination as soon as an effective and safe vaccine is available. Canada has a complete different strategy than Sweden because Canadians consider that only a vaccine can allow a herd immunity; this is in contrast to Sweden`s herd immunity policy that sadly triggered a high number of deaths. In May 2020, Global News reveals that 72% of Canadians support a mandatory coronavirus vaccine. Canadians know that a vaccine will save thousands of lives and that this is the only solution to get back to a normal life. Nevertheless, Canada relies too much on global cooperation in terms of manufacturing vaccines; hence, Canada should increase its vaccine production capacity rather than waiting for other countries to give Canada millions of vaccine doses. In the 1976 swine flu outbreak, the U.S. vaccinated its entire population before American vaccine producers were allowed to export vaccine doses to Canada. This shows that Canada cannot rely on foreign manufacturers to supply vaccine doses to Canadians.

                Moreover, the Government of Canada made a national income support program to help Canadians to meet ends meet during this crisis. This new social program is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit that gives Canadians $2,000 on monthly basis for a period of 4 months. Furthermore, several businesses were asked to shut down for a few weeks in order to stop the spread of the virus; thus, the Trudeau government also subsidizes the wage of employees working for businesses that lost at least 30% of their revenues. As a result, the Trudeau government lessens the damaging effects of the pandemic on Canadian businesses. The total cost of these transfer payments to people and businesses is about $146 billion. These programs aim at lessening the financial hardships caused by the global pandemic. The Trudeau government is proactive in Canada`s response to COVID 19. Financial Minister Bill Morneau says: ¨Making sure Canadians feel secure in their jobs is a boost of confidence we all need in this challenging time. It’s a sense of hope that life will get better, even as we deal with stress and sickness that our families will be able to pay the bills and that life will go on.¨ Thus, the Trudeau government has already started to safeguard Canadian economy and to ensure the economic welfare of people welfare of people. This national aid package is the largest national support program since World War 2.

                In addition, this global crisis could push the national government to invoke the National Emergencies Act that centralizes powers from subnational governments to the national government. The former piece of legislation to respond to national emergencies was the War Measures Act. This act was used three times in Canadian history such as: the Great War, World War 2, and the October Crisis. The purpose of this act is to protect the lives, health, and safety of Canadians. The Parliament of Canada has to determine whether or not current national and provincial powers can resolve the crisis; if not, the Parliament of Canada has the duty to invoke the Emergencies Act in order to centralize the government intervention to stop the direct danger of COVID 19. The Government of Canada can use this act to build hospitals, for the requisition and use of property, to ask someone to provide essential services, to distribute essential goods, service, and resources, etc. New Brunswick Premier Blain Higgs says: ¨We are seeing new measures being put in place each day, and these measures can vary widely between provinces and territories. Enacting a national state of emergency is the best tool to ensure consistency across our country in the level of health care, safeguarding our supply chain, and mitigating the economic impact.¨ Therefore, Premier Higgs thinks that the Emergencies Act is the best way to deal with the current health crisis. As well, Tyler Orton, a Times Colonist journalist, describes this act in April as follow: ¨Invoking the act, the successor to the War Measures Act, would give the federal government a considerably broader range of powers to tackle the pandemic such as further restricting travel and other freedoms.¨ As a result, this is the measure of the last resort according to the Trudeau government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thinks that provinces still have the necessary tools to serve the needs of Canadian and to stop the spread of the virus. Justin Trudeau hopes that his government never has to invoke this exceptional and very powerful piece of legislation. Nevertheless, some Canadian Premiers want that Ottawa coordinates a national response while other Premiers do not consider the National Emergencies Act is needed.

                Still, some regions of the nation struggle to stop the spread of the virus while others have stopped the virus. For instance, Ontario and Quebec have most of Canada`s confirmed cases. Quebec is the hardest hit province by the novel coronavirus. On top, this unprecedented crisis has been devastating for Ontario`s and Quebec`s long term care homes.  In Quebec, some staff deserted some premises hit by the COVID 19 virus leaving elderly residents in terrible conditions. Seniors were not given appropriate medical care in order to recover from the virus. Quebec hospitals were hit by coronavirus outbreaks. Additionally, Quebec accounts for more than 50% of Canada`s COVID 19 confirmed cases while the province is about 22% of the Canadian population. The Province of Quebec fails to implement measures that could have stopped the spread of the virus. Before COVID 19 reaches Canada, Quebec could have made mandatory to wear masks in crowded areas and public health officials could have implemented health policies to prevent virus outbreaks from affecting hospitals and long term care facilities. Above and beyond, Hospital emergency rooms have been breeding grounds to COVID 19 because hospitals could not separate hot zones from cold zones. Therefore, the Quebec healthcare system failed to prevent the virus from spreading. In sum, the Canadian healthcare and long term care systems were not ready to deal with a pandemic.

                Furthermore, decision making could have been more centralized on the national level. Some provinces made decisions that failed to stop the spread of the virus. Nevertheless, some nations have been more successful than Canada in fighting the novel coronavirus. For instance, the Commonwealth of Australia has succeeded to win against the virus. The secret of the Australian victory is better management on the national level. The national government created a war cabinet made up of senior ministers, and state and territory leaders. The purpose of this ¨war cabinet¨ is to make decisions relevant to the coronavirus crisis. Besides, this special cabinet makes decision about job creation in order that Australia`s economy quickly recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Prime Minister Trudeau should make a ¨war cabinet¨ to fight COVID 19. The cabinet could be made up of the Prime Minister, senior cabinet ministers, opposition leaders, indigenous leaders, and provincial premiers. Therefore, the Trudeau government could use a war cabinet to better manage the crisis on a national level instead of having subnational governments using approaches to fight the virus that are sometimes ineffective to stop the spread of the pathogen. Some of the provincial policies were not successful at stopping the new pathogen. A ¨war cabinet¨ could give a national voice to regional leaders in order to frame a better national response to get rid of COVID 19. This is the worst crisis that Canada has ever faced in its history.

                Finally, the Trudeau government performs very well in terms of economics by supporting people and businesses to overcome the financial hardships caused by the pandemic. Prime Minister Trudeau implemented the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Program to ¨ to ensure that everyone has the financial assistance they need to get through this difficult time.¨ The CERB is very successful and it helps Canadians to overcome this global crisis. Besides, the Trudeau subsidizes business through different government programs in order to safeguard the national economy and to allow Canada to remain a competitive player on the global markets. Rahm Emanuel, President Obama`s Chief of Staff, says: ¨You never want a serious a crisis to go to waste.¨ Thus, Canada can use this economic crisis to be more independent from World supply and markets. In terms of health management, Ontario and Quebec have failed to slow the spread of the virus. The province of Quebec has more than half of all of Canadian COVID 19 cases. As a result, Canada needs to move national approach; Canada should get inspired by Australia that has a ¨war cabinet¨ made of leaders from all regions of the country and from the two main political parties. Prime Minister Trudeau could better coordinate the national response through a ¨war cabinet.¨ Besides, the national government should invoke a national state of emergency to better implement a plan to win over COVID 19 and to help more regions more affected by COVID 19. The pandemic is a defining moment in the premiership of Justin Trudeau, history will remember about how the Prime Minister solved the crisis. Therefore, the Trudeau government has to be more proactive in finding ways to protect the health of people and to ensure that Canadian economy recovers from these uncertain times. President Truman believed in the concept that the ¨The buck stops here.¨ This means that the head of a national government accepts the ultimate responsibility in crisis management. Thus, Prime Minister Trudeau is responsible for the physical and economic health of Canadians in these troubled times.

June 7, 2020

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Yannick B. Vallée
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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