Governments matter

Written by Brenda Schimke

The private sector was all but useless in addressing COVID-19. If governments hadn’t brought in strict health measures, COVID would have remained rampant, businesses would have been overwhelmed with sick employees and more and more customers would have died. Recovery would have taken decades rather than years.

Only one drug company, Pfizer, created a vaccine without government investment, but Pfizer’s private investment returned billions within months as governments became their only customers.

Companies’ just-in-time supply chains were completely ill-suited to address the emergency. The private sector needed and received substantial financial aid from governments during the shutdown.

The Canadian government focussed their rescue programs initially on people, not big corporations (as they had done during the 2008 financial economic meltdown). Employees, households, small and medium-sized corporations and charities received direct support and because of that, a 1930’s-style depression did not happen.

The COVID pandemic de-bunked the long-held view created by President Ronald Reagan and Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that “government is the problem”.  A crisis proved that nothing is farther from the truth.

Democratic governments may not always be efficient, or may not always do what you want them to do, but they are the only entity able to save people from themselves and maintain businesses, services and infrastructure during a crisis.

The pandemic has highlighted that society’s true foundation is not the wealthy one per cent, multinational corporations, or the stock market, but uncorrupted, democratic governments.

Jeffery Kaufman, a Canadian journalist reporting from London, said, “the relentless attacks on democratic governments has been paused during the pandemic. We have now seen that the only solution to something of this scale [the pandemic] is government involvement.”

Hopefully the pandemic will give all Canadians, and especially those dissatisfied Albertans, pause to consider where we would be today if not for federal programs and investment. With no vaccines (100 per cent financed by the federal government) and no public health guidelines, we’d be like Brazil with overwhelmed hospitals and hundreds of thousands of deaths. We certainly would not be enjoying our ‘freedom summer’.

For that matter, without the federal government stepping up to the plate every time there is an agricultural disaster, we wouldn’t have very much agriculture left in this country either.

It’s a disturbing trend when so many voters on the far right believe a society can function with everyone just doing their own thing. That truly is the definition of chaos and madness.

The COVID-19 pandemic and frequent agricultural disasters should open our eyes to the importance of the federal government, but will it?

American President Abraham Lincoln said ‘no nation can stand when it’s at odds with itself’. 

I would further argue, ‘no free nation can stand when its people believe personal rights of a powerful minority trump democratic principles, or that government is the problem’.

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.