March 20th, 2020
Focus on stopping the spread of COVID-19
As the first week of Canada’s efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic settles in, the only consistency is the understanding that we are working with a moving target. Daily briefings by the Prime Minister and key cabinet members have shed light on some aspects of Canada’s response, but so much more will play out over time.
What is clear is the fact that the government and parliamentarians are seized with the scope and severity of the moment and are working to provide an effective response which includes a special meeting of the parliament to pass necessary legislation. At the same time, many Canadians are wondering what they can do.
The simplest, shortest, and best answer is to stay home if you can. That’s because the most important thing any of us can do is to minimize our potential to spread the virus. The purpose of this is to allow us to maintain our health care system to address our needs. Without a concentrated effort to slow down the spread of the virus, hospitals will become overwhelmed and unable to assist everyone who needs help. That includes those who will need care for emergencies like heart attacks or strokes.
The idea that this is just another flu is simply wrong and dangerous. One in five people who contract COVID-19 require medical attention. In Italy 10 percent of the cases have required hospitalization. The health care system in that country has been so taxed that doctors have had to choose who lives and dies because they are short on important supplies such as ventilators. This is what we are hoping to avoid in Canada and everything we can do to limit contact will help in the long run.
The World Health Organization is advising people of five ways they can help stop the spread of coronavirus. These are: Wash your hands; Cough/sneeze into your elbow; Don’t touch your face; Stay more than 3 feet (one meter) from others; Stay home if you feel sick.
While we work our way through this, many challenges will present themselves, but we have known this is coming for weeks which is why New Democrats have been calling on the government to make sure no one falls through the cracks. That includes direct assistance and wage replacement for working class families, protections for workers and tenants, an extension on tax filing and CRA deadlines, and support and supplies for Indigenous communities.
I am pleased to that the Government has already acted on some of these measures however there is a need and an urgency to put in place additional measures to assist individuals and businesses in a much quicker fashion as too many are already feeling the impact
Canada’s emergency response includes $27 billion for businesses and individuals and $55 billion to meet liquidity needs through tax deferrals. We know we can afford this based on the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s recent report on fiscal sustainability that indicated we had room to grow our social programming. These measures will account for 3 percent of our GDP this year and there is room to deliver more going forward which has been suggested already.
This is a fluid situation and it is important that we do all we can to limit the worst effects of COVID-19 while we can. Please remember that any inconveniences will be part of a greater effort to help the most vulnerable among us.