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Thursday, April 9, 2020
Ottawa doing too little to protect Canadians
For weeks, the government told us that we’re prepared for COVID-19. Its early actions demonstrated something entirely different
By Susan Martinuk
Frontier Centre for Public Policy
Provide a timely response. Ensure transparency. Tell the truth.
are just some of the basic tenets of crisis communications, and Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau and his crisis response team would do well to
take them to heart because, so far during the COVID-19 crisis, their
statements and actions have missed the mark in every way.
Canadian who checks the news knows there has been ample opportunity for
the government and its affiliated bodies to come up with a coherent
plan to contain and mitigate the virus, and to effectively communicate
those efforts to its citizenry.
rather than timely action, Canadians have witnessed indecision and
stalling. Daily press conferences feature the same empty verbiage about
how the federal government has this under control, along with an update
on the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths.\
all chatter, little action and a rapidly growing number of infections
has rightly led Canadians to the realization that our leaders are not
doing the right things, even as they try to say the right words.
Canadians began to sense that lack of control early on, while they were
entering into a then-undefined time of government-recommended
self-isolation. Bored fingers naturally turned to Twitter feeds that led
to #COVID19 and scores of posts decrying the utter absence of early
screening at Toronto Pearson Airport and Vancouver International
brother-in-law returned from Spain to “no screenings.” Someone else
“arrived from Hawaii with pneumonia” only to find there was no one
checking – or asking about – his/her health status. A Conservative MP
posted that her cousin had just arrived in Vancouver from Japan – there
was no screening, no information and no mention of self-isolation.
Another tweet said, “Wife arrived after two weeks in Africa via Paris –
Toronto – Calgary. No screening.” Still another, “My family just arrived
in Vancouver via Hong Kong – walked right in with no screening at all.”
days after the declaration of a worldwide pandemic, contrary to what
the government said, Canada had no screening measures in place for
international travellers. Over and over, tweets shared this same
Safety Minister Bill Blair responded to the tweets with one of his own,
“strongly recommending” all travellers coming from outside of Canada
self-isolate for 14 days.
the past few years, we’ve all witnessed how well government-by-Twitter
has worked for Americans. But apparently this one tweet was supposed to
function as a substitute for hands-on screening.
that same day (March 14), Canada Border Services Agency asserted that
“enhanced screening has been in place at all airports since February.”
It stated that all passengers (Canadians or other) are being assessed on
arrival, asked to self-isolate if coming from China, Iran or Italy, and
asked to “consider” self-isolating for 14 days when arriving from other
countries. Health screening questions will be asked. It also claims
there is additional signage to inform travelers, along with pamphlets
and surgical masks to be given to “travellers of concern.”
So where is our vastly superior and experienced plan?
why did we hold the door open to all foreign travellers while asking
Canadians on those very same planes to make personal and financial
sacrifices to self-isolate?
inexplicable bias led to exasperated tweets such as, “So let me get
this straight. I return from Vegas and the BC government says I should
self-quarantine for 14 days. Travelers from US and other countries have
unlimited access to hotels, restaurants, etc?”
this incongruity was blatantly obvious to us, as mere citizens, surely
those in charge should have recognized the problem – and fixed it.
Canadian government’s ongoing efforts to stem the spread included
closing the Canadian border to all foreign citizens on March 18. Isn’t
this similar to the old adage of closing the stable door after the horse
stores close, schools empty, and Canadians stay at home, there appears
to be a growing gap between the sacrifices we’re willing to make to stem
this pandemic and the anemic efforts made by our government to protect