To the Editor:
When COVID-19 began taking a deadly toll in China, Ottawa naively expressed “sympathy” and “full confidence” in China’s ability to contain the virus. China was lying. Canada was ill-equipped.
The Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) early warning system once considered a world leader had been scaled back by Harper Conservative budget cuts and Trudeau Liberals hastened its demise in 2019. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) had also been stripped of crucial capacity to provide early warning of the pandemic due to federal government cost cutting and negligence.
Doctors, epidemiologists, scientists were shunted aside by “managerial” bureaucrats and budget cuts. It is vital to move quickly and decisively in a pandemic. South Korea, Australia, New Zealand did just that and faired much better than Canada. PPE was in short supply. Conservative privatization had sold off Connaught Labs a global-leader of vaccine production. Long-Term Care facilities were severely under resourced, with deaths in the thousands.
The costs to the health, lives and economy of Canadians could have been much less severe if we had the capacity to institute significant measures earlier. Our country is now topping 60,000 cases and 16,000 dead. Conservative and Liberals have been privatizing and turning over vital public assets to their wealthy corporate backers for too long. The first priority of any government must be to invest and maintain vital public services ensuring the health and protection of its people. We must never let this happen again. People are the economy.