Individual rights are sucking up a lot of oxygen and taking many off the battlefield as the pandemic moves through its deadly second wave.
It’s not as if we weren’t warned that the second wave was coming and that it would be more deadly than the first.
It’s not that medical experts didn’t explain the exponential growth of pandemic spread, doubling every two weeks, if not taken seriously.
Or that the federal government didn’t tell us to prepare for regional lockdowns or increased restrictions this fall.
And surely, we’ve heard public health officials and medical experts pleading with us to stay vigilant in our mask wearing, two metre separation and cessation of multiple cohort social gatherings.
“But that infringes on our rights”, we say.
Too many Albertans didn’t put themselves out to follow the guidelines and now our primary tool to curb community spread, contact tracing, is all but useless. Less than 40 per cent of new cases can be traced, even as positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths spike.
Forgotten amongst our ‘rights’ are the tired and overwhelmed health care workers, finite in number, who are depleted in numbers through Covid-19 illnesses and isolation, and now pulling long, hard shifts. The staff shortages are so acute in for-profit senior’s residences that many seniors are receiving inadequate or much worse, inhumane care.
Our premier treats doctors and health care workers like widgets to be maneuvered at his will, but in fact, they are human beings with feelings, families and breaking points when pushed too hard.
Somewhere in the evolution of conservative parties, ‘individual rights’ were enshrined as more important than the common good. That works very poorly in a democracy. The most conservative governments in the world—the United States, Great Britain and Israel—have had yoyo pandemic responses—all leaders much more interested in individual rights than defeating the pandemic or saving lives.
In contrast, the conservative Prime Minister of Australia shut down his economy at the very start of the second wave, subsidized people and businesses, and saw a very small second wave during their winter season.
If personal rights are paramount, why can’t I lawfully careen down the highway at 150 kph, with an open bottle of booze, no seat belt, a loaded gun and my toddlers jumping back and forth between the seats? Simply put—those individual rights would jeopardize the lives of others and crush the financial sustainability of public health, policing, and social costs—ergo, the common good.
By not wearing a mask and flaunting the pandemic public health guidelines, seniors living in care centres are those toddlers—unable to defend themselves against the individual rights of others.
Those working in front-line positions, medical or otherwise, are equivalent to other drivers sharing my road—they either can’t afford to stay home as minimum-wage earners, or they are essential health care workers—facing increased danger daily so others can flaunt their ‘rights’.
The conservative Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, said “the elderly have to sacrifice in order to open up the country.” It’s crass, but true when individual selfishness prevails at any cost.
All conservative premiers, with the exception of ours, are putting collective rights above individual selfishness. Premier Moe of Saskatchewan made masks mandatory in all communities over 5,000.
Premier Ford of Ontario moved many regions into regional lockdowns.
Manitoba’s Premier Pallister did a province-wide lock down with severe penalties for violators.
Premier Higgs of New Brunswick maintains the Maritimes bubble.
Yet our conservative premier continues to shirk leadership, trusting his people to do the right thing. Even when it’s obvious that far too many of us couldn’t be bothered.