----- An election would be unwise
Justin Trudeau has shaved his beard. Pre-writ electioneering (at taxpayers’ expense) is occurring across the country. The Liberals are ahead 9-12 points in the national polls. A new Inuk Governor General – Mary Simon – has been selected. An election thus seems imminent. But is this not risky and premature?
Business leaders are opposed inasmuch as there's no plan to reopen the US-Canada border and stimulate the economy.
There are too many risks of local flare-ups of COVID-19. Nova Scotia and Manitoba are recovering from unexpected surges. Kashechewan First Nation, with most adults vaccinated, recently had an outbreak of 300 cases – over half in children, who could not receive vaccine.
Yukon is the best example. On June 1, it had no active cases and a sick-leave plan. In Whitehorse, 72% had second doses. Yet 10 days later, an outbreak occurred in unvaccinated persons. By July 6, there were 360 new cases – the highest per capita case rate in Canada.
This demonstrates that we can't fully let down our guard. Due to the Peltzman Effect, vaccines weaken adherence to other safety measures -- social distancing and wearing masks – even for the unvaccinated.
In Canada, 42% of persons have received both doses (38% in Quebec) – much like the worst areas of the United States. For example, the vaccination rate in Quebec is similar to that in Tennessee, Ontario to Kentucky, and British Columbia to Georgia. Doubling every two weeks, the Delta variant now accounts for half of cases in the US and over 80% in Ontario; it is six times as contagious as the original strain.
The pandemic seems to be waning. All of Quebec is in the green zone, and Ontario will start stage 3. Alberta is holding the Calgary Stampede. Saskatchewan and British Columbia have dropped all public restrictions. After 14 months, Newfoundland and Labrador will welcome fully-vaccinated visitors from Canada.
Except in the territories, only 45% of eligible Canadians have been fully vaccinated. Nearly five million children under 12 will not qualify for vaccines until fall. In the US, 99% of deaths have been in the unvaccinated. Yet an Ipsos poll has found nearly 20% of Canadians were hesitant or refused to get the vaccine.
If recurrent waves of this pandemics are to be avoided, the premiers thus cannot rely entirely on vaccines; they must use all potential tools: increased rapid testing and contact tracing, adequate paid sick benefits, more isolation centres and enhanced funding from Ottawa.
For months, premiers relied on the inadequate federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. Several provinces have initiated similar, short-term supplemental sick benefits programs. There is no seamless, easy way to obtain sick benefits without incurring an interruption or loss of income. I have hence called for, ten days of paid sick leave. Isolating workers would continue to be paid through their employer, who would be reimbursed by the province, which would be ultimately paid by Ottawa.
One last issue: Since 1995, every Governor General has spoken French, the first language of 23% of Canadians.
It will be very difficult for Mary Simon to learn a new language in time, despite her intelligence. It would be unfair of Justin Trudeau to dissolve government before she has a chance to undertake French immersion. During the election, the remaining ministers will have reduced power, the other MPs will have no legal status, yet major decisions may have to be made. There will be no way for Canadians to hold the caretaker Liberal politicians accountable.
Hence, considering all these unresolved issues, now is definitely not the time for Justin Trudeau to call an election.
Charles S. Shaver, MD