Conrad Black: Erin O’Toole promised boldness and change. We’re still waiting

NP

Erin O'Toole speaks on Aug. 24, 2020 after winning the Conservative Party leadership. PHOTO BY SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS/FILE

The leader of the federal opposition, Erin O’Toole, gave an important address to his Conservative partisans, anticipating a general election at his party conference in Ottawa on February 26. As of Friday, there were 3769 people hospitalized in Canada with COVID-19 of whom 1125 were in intensive care units, out of a population of almost 38 million, and the country is locked down. It was clear a year ago that, when factoring in that two per cent of cases result in death and 80 per cent of fatalities also had one comorbidity, recovery rates are approximately by my calculations 99.5 per cent for healthy people beneath the age of 65. If we had just protected the elderly and infirm a year ago, we might have been able to save at least a third of those who have died, at a minimum cost in inconvenience and in money.

There are more than 40 countries with a higher level of per capita vaccination than Canada. This government did nothing in the trade renegotiations with the U. It refused to discuss pharma in those negotiations at all, and has, like its predecessors, done nothing to encourage a robust domestic drug industry. Someone arriving in Canada with the certification of a negative COVID test is interned for three days at a cost of $3000 and is then in quarantine for two weeks subject to serious legal penalties for any derogation. This is just reflexive authoritarianism, flailing at COVID.

Canada was too slow to approve the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and did nothing to partner seriously with the drug industry early on. Even among the elderly and the infirm, the survival rate is likely around 95 per cent, and the average age of COVID fatalities is almost identical with the life expectancy. This takes nothing from the tragedy or gravity of the pandemic. But the Liberal government and some of the provinces terrorized the country and then sanctimoniously claimed to have manfully dealt with the pandemic by inflicting terrible economic and psychological hardship on the entire country.

The government obviously thinks it can win reelection on its miserable record, because the opposition is so incompetent, although the government is a sitting, duck. In his conference speech, Erin O’Toole announced a five point Recovery Plan. These are unspecific but include a «comprehensive jobs plan to recover the million jobs lost during the pandemic within one year.» This should actually be tax reform in which a good deal of revenue is moved to tax on elective spending and taxes on lower level incomes are abolished, and there is a tax credit for net job creation. This government isn’t particularly corrupt.

The third O’Toole point is a Canada Mental Health Action Plan including «better wellness coverage,» and a «nation-wide, three-digit suicide prevention hotline.» This is probably a good thing but no one will win an election by promising a better suicide watch. We are rationing health care now and there is completely inadequate mental-health care for those who cannot afford to pay the specialists. What we need is to cease to be one of the two or three countries in the world which do not officially tolerate private health care, focus the public funding of health care on those who cannot pay for it themselves and give those who can a tax credit for necessary medical expenses. The fourth and fifth parts of the O’Toole plan are an improved crisis management system, and the customary promise of a balanced budget within 10 years.

We have no right or wish to expect Erin O’Toole to be Jean-Jacques Rousseau as the bourgeois equivalent of a rabble-rouser. He is right that the Conservatives must not be climate deniers. This is an attempt to prostrate the Conservatives before separatist sentiment in Québec, and also the approval of what amounts to cultural discrimination. He is abandoning within Québec the interests of the 70 per cent of Canadians who speak English, delegitimizing English within Québec after 258 years of official status, and is putting the official cultural minorities of all provinces over the side.

Our governance is so awful because the Liberals don’t have to do anything, because the Conservatives are so easy to defeat. It is late, but not too late to break that cycle before another election, but not the way Erin O’Toole tried it on February 26.

Source: Conrad Black | NP

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