The recent opinion column, “Covid-19 and Chaos” (April 22 Gazette) attempts to shift the narrative around the response of Canadians to COVID-19 in an irresponsible way. The author believes that Canadians are tired of the current level of social distancing measures and are no longer willing to tolerate them. This argument is based on a flimsy foundation of anecdotal experiences and vaguely correlated, globally sourced twitter data. What is so dangerous about this argument is that it both ignores the data and expertise of Canada’s leading public health experts, and presumes that the majority of Canadians agree with him. Why plant seeds of doubt in fellow citizens' minds regarding the expertise of our public health specialists?
One of the more concerning proposals the author makes is to have businesses “take the lead” in opening up society away from our democratically elected political leaders. It is outrageous to suggest that an unelected, special interest lobby group devoted to looking out for the best interests of its own members should be guiding public health policy for the entirety of society during a pandemic. We do not operate our wonderful universal health care system based on the advice and preferences of business interests, yet once again, the author petitions readers to put their trust in an institution other than our public health experts.
Finally, the author goes on to suggest that the economic cost is “not tolerable” when contrasted against an increase in COVID-19 cases and the horrific pain, suffering and loss of life that would ensue. In particular, he suggests that it is “timid” of our politicians to continue to act on the advice of our public health experts regarding societal restrictions.
There is nothing brave about irresponsibly advocating the reopening of our society against the advice of public health experts. There is nothing courageous in concluding that the suffering and loss of life of fellow citizens is somehow an acceptable alternative.
Canada is one of the Earth’s greatest nations for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being our access to and utilization of locally trained, world renowned experts in fields including public health. We are going to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic successfully by continuing with our proud, long-standing Canadian tradition of utilizing our experts and letting them inform and lead our public policy. We do not want our country to set a dangerous new precedent of letting politicians and special interest groups override the knowledge and information provided by subject knowledge experts. Spreading skepticism and distrust of the institutions that have made Canadian society so successful threatens our recovery from COVID-19.
David St. Arnaud