Surely, it’s my right!

Written by Brenda Schimke

President Joe Biden, following his predecessor’s lead, has re-launched America’s efforts to prove that COVID-19 was created in a Wuhan, China laboratory and was designed by the Chinese to wreak havoc on Western economies.

Certainly, this may be good politics for him and others, but it really is a diversion from the poor decisions made by Western governments over the last 40 years as they embraced short-term efficiency over long-term resiliency.

The pronouncements during the pandemic from the once world-renowned Center for Disease Control (CDC) highlighted how scientists in public health had been sidelined and muzzled by politically-controlled bosses. Many of the CDC’s pronouncements, sometimes bordering on inane, were confusing and directly led to untold deaths in the United States.

The same can be said in Canada. We, too, politicized our Public Health Agency (PHA). Until 2014, it was run by scientists, but then-Prime Minister Harper installed a bureaucrat as president with no training in public health and relegated the chief public health officer to that of an advisor. The politicized PHA left us unprepared to respond quickly to this pandemic.

It’s similar to how Premier Kenney uses Dr. Deena Hinshaw. When he needs cover for lockdowns, he drags her out with him to face the music, but when he’s going to roll the dice and open up earlier than all known public health wisdom recommends, she’s nowhere to be seen—until later, when she’s learned her lines.

Just like the CDC, Canada’s scientific community has been usurped by politics. The bureaucratic leaders at PHA didn’t have the ability to understand evidence pointing to potential virus outbreaks.

I’ve even read that these PHA bureaucrats would attend international gatherings of public health experts as Canada’s representatives when all other countries had sent their top scientists.

It’s equivalent to appointing a bureaucrat from Revenue Canada as the next President of Suncor.

Up until 2018, the PHA’s Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) had been relied on by the World Health Organization, G-7 countries and many others as the most effective tool to gather pandemic intelligence. 

Unfortunately, in 2014 under Prime Minister Trudeau’s watch, the GPHIN stopped international surveillance and moved their focus to domestic projects. Given that virtually all viruses start outside Canada, that was dumb indeed and sorely missed by the international community.

Even worse on May 24, 2019, just as we were getting an appreciation for our unwelcome friend, COVID-19, Ottawa silenced the GPHIN system completely.

The Public Health Agency of Canada was created as part of Canada’s response to the SARS outbreak in 2003-04.

When led by scientists, the PHA had a close working relationship with China’s number one infectious disease lab and were always on top of emerging viruses. It served its role well until politics took over science.

The severity of this pandemic was completely preventable. But rather than let scientists tell us ‘truth’, and embarrass governments into preparing for worst-case scenarios, we let small governments, low taxes, de-regulation, blind reliance on the markets and self-centeredness, rule our lives.

Nature, including viruses, is more powerful than any politician or political ideology. We’re in the mess we’re in today because we want to live in the ‘now’ with no regard for the future.

We do it with viruses and diseases, we do it with climate change and we do it with blind reliance on cheap foreign supply chains.

My guess, we’ll have learned little from this pandemic. When COVID-19 is in our rear-view mirror, we’ll comfortably return to our past ignorance—caring not a wit for future generations.

“We only live once, so surely it’s my right to live it for me and me alone!”

 

Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

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.