Canada, late at the vaccines game with no reserved seat, says Newsfirst columnist Robert Vairo

In the midst of discussing the weather, an associate burst out “ we Canadians only care about health and the weather. That’s why we often ask, ‘how are you, nice day eh’, in the same sentence”. To which another quickly added, “health, weather and American politics.” So true. We are barely half as interested in Canadian politics as we are in US presidential elections, senate and house of representatives to a lesser degree, and only because the number of republicans or Democrats elected could influence their president.

The election of Donald Trump is the most talked about US President in our memory. He is ever controversial. Never a day has gone by without hearing, reading, or seeing Donald Trump, for the past four years. No other leader has gotten as much air time and taken up so much media space according to a Boston based data company that analyses Google searches. Commented a New Jersey political science professor, Matthew Hale, “Previous presidents had a message of the day. Trump has a message of the right now. Lots more to Google when you bounce around like he does”, especially those 2 a.m. tweets. Saying Trump is controversial is an understatement. It’s a wonder that news web sites don’t crash on some news days. Trump has taken credit for the DOW JONES hitting the 30 thousand mark for the first time in history, as well as vaccines arriving in unbelievable record time.

While vaccines may arrive in the U.S. as early as December 11th, Justin Trudeau says only one half of Canadians will be inoculated by “September ‘21, if all goes well”. Maybe. I have difficulty believing it’s only because we have no made in Canada vaccine. While the rest of the western world was signing “firm unconditional vaccine purchase agreements, our Liberal government was posturing about making sure the poorer countries had vaccines”. Our vaccines will arrive months late not because we don’t have a giant vaccine factory in Canada but because the liberal government was too late committing to sign, and we ended up at the end of the line. Britain will be getting its vaccine well ahead of Canada because it placed an order early with U.S. Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech for their vaccine. And that vaccine may get approval by December 1st or 2nd, even before the U.S.! Our liberal government can not tell us when Health Canada will approve the vaccine, when it will arrive, when and how and to whom it will be distributed. When asked, our Health Minister Hajdu replied “ It’s complicated”. Is that it? Is this the transparency that Trudeau promised? This is truly disheartening. Hajdu should be fired for incompetence. Our government dropped the ball, plain and simple. And it’s not because we do not manufacture it in Canada. Frankly, we arrived late at the game with no reserved seat. We did manufacture vaccines decades ago. Some of you may remember the names Connaught Laboratories of Toronto, and Institut Armand Frappier from Montreal. We sold them to the French and the British. Today we have Quebec’s Medicago and Saskatchewan’s VIDO-InterVac but we do not have the means to produce millions of vaccines in Canada.

All this leads to a troubling statement we heard from our Prime Minister. “The pandemic is giving Canada an opportunity to reset our economy on extreme poverty, inequality and climate change”. Why is he making windy rhetoric from the Swiss based Economic Forum a Canadian government commitment? What about a “reset” to plan for the next pandemic without dictating our social lives, to fix our long-term care homes, take better care and better prepare our health care workers, stimulate our economy, offer incentives to small and medium size businesses which employ most of Canada’s workers.

We have not met a carbon emission target, ever. The latest is zero by 2050. All talk. Ironically, Canada is a leader in capturing carbon emissions before they are released into the air. An excellent way to reduce emissions instead of taxing us for carbon. An RBC memo speaks of “carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS)”. But that would mean government investment in our biggest economic contributors, oil, gas, and heavy industry like concrete and steel production. These are clearly not favourites for our social activist Prime Minister.

Let’s face it. Governments have failed us. The list of ideas for a better tomorrow is long my friends. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that any of our current elected leaders have the political will, chutzpah, or the know-how, to fulfill this vision.

That’s What I’m Thinking.

Robert Vairo