As we hunker down, it’s hard to remember what pre-virus Canada was like. Canada’s transportation system was then paralyzed by a collection of climate and Indigenous activists, while our Prime Minister was away. Although those issues seemed very important at the time, they seem less so now as we are forced to focus on a pandemic that could actually kill us – something that really matters.
When we get through this we will confront a changed world. For one thing – for all the talk about globalization- it turns out that borders do matter. Travellers were desperate to return to their own countries (some still are). Borders were closed to stop the spread of the disease while nations procured medical supplies for their own citizens first. Borders are once again very real.
We also learned a hard lesson about China. We in the West had hoped that China’s growing prosperity – gained by help from the West and the Chinese people’s hard work – would bring more freedom to China. Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972 created hope that prosperity would bring democracy. This hasn’t happened. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – which still holds two Canadians hostage – seems determined to remain the totalitarian bully it always was.
The CCP clearly has no intention of changing. We should quickly repatriate our vital industries, like pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. Why we allowed foreign governments to control them in the first place is a mystery. How much other “uncoupling” and “disengagement” we must do with China remains to be seen. The point is that our ‘eyes’ have been opened – and we have paid a very high price for ‘cheap’ goods.
The priority must be to get through this pandemic while preparing for the possibility of a next one. We sure weren’t prepared this time around. We still have lax screening at airports. We spend days waiting for test results that should take minutes, and too many staff are sent into danger lacking proper equipment.
Other countries, like Taiwan and Sweden, have done far better than we have – and their economies have not been shut down. Their economies have contracted only slightly while our locked down economy has cratered – and yet their death rate seems to be no higher than ours. We should learn from them.
And, in the very short term, we must get our wrecked economies up and running again. This must include unshackling our vital gas and oil industry, supporting our farmers, and helping our small businesses recover. This also means finding safe ways to get people back to work in stages – perhaps first bringing back younger people and those who are by now immune to the virus.
The shutdown of our economy is coming at huge costs. The virtual obsession with climate change caused us to ignore the threat of this pandemic. Painful government spending cuts and priority changes will also have to be made.
It’s time to focus on things that really matter.
Brian Giesbrecht, a retired judge, is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.