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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

FELDSTED -- The federal government has consistently refused to recognize provincial sovereignty claiming that it has powers to meddle in anything it chooses

The pandemic is breaking down political barriers between provincial and federal governments. 

Unity of purpose brings former foes together in ways that Canada has not always seen in past crises

Éric Grenier -- CBC News -- Apr 05, 2020

While Canadians are being asked to keep their distance from one another to slow the spread of COVID-19, the pandemic is bringing Canada's leaders closer together.

On Thursday night, there was a tangible spirit of goodwill around the virtual table when the prime minister and Canada's premiers took part in a teleconference on the novel coronavirus outbreak. Sources tell CBC News that gratitude and appreciation was expressed at both ends for the collaborative work the two levels of government have been doing.

Meetings of first ministers can be acrimonious but there was no troublemaker at the table this time. One source said that "everyone [was] very sympathetic to Quebec," the province that has been hit the hardest by the outbreak. In the past, the province has butted heads with other premiers on everything from pipelines to face veil bans.

Speaking on background, a federal Liberal source told CBC News that some premiers were willing to divert deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) from their own province to provinces with greater needs.

Nonsense! First, there are not “two levels of government”.

The federal government can override provinces in its constitutional spheres of authority, but provinces have separate spheres of authority the federal government cannot interfere with or override. Subjects not covered in the constitution fall to the federal government.

The federal government has consistently refused to recognize provincial sovereignty claiming that it has powers to meddle in anything it chooses. That is not correct and has led to unneeded acrimony.

We are in this mess because our ideology-driven virtue-signalling federal government failed to do its duty to protect our borders and society by carrying out its responsibility to manage communicable disease. The federal government has exclusive authority over and responsibility for quarantine.

Provinces have jurisdiction over the delivery of health care with some exceptions; heath care for the military, prison inmates and indigenous people are a federal responsibility.

Provinces were forced to take a lead in combating Coronavirus as the federal government had abandoned its responsibility. Regulations on social distancing and isolation are forms of quarantine that avoid use of a term dreaded by the politically correct.

“Quarantine”, meaning isolation of a person or persons who have been exposed to or have been infected by a contagious disease, has been around since the mid 17th century and originally meant 40 days of isolation (from the Italian quarantina, from quaranta ‘forty’).

Provinces have been filling in for a federal leadership void. Most provinces have declared a ‘state of emergency’ to give themselves limited quarantine powers to prevent rapid Coronavirus spread. They were and still are in a catch-up situation as failure to secure our borders and require quarantine of infected persons until late March allowed the Coronavirus to gain a solid foothold in Canada. There should never have been an infection “curve” to flatten.

We are chafing under provincial regulation to isolate which include closing down of all non-essential businesses and prohibiting gatherings of more than ten people which is a drastic assault on our freedoms, but necessary to slow the spread of a well-established and highly communicable virus.

Millions are out of work as they are considered non-essential. That is a mind-numbing assault on self-esteem. In February people got to work on time and put in a day’s work and in March they were suddenly declared unnecessary and unneeded. If they don’t come back to work when the pandemic is over, our society cannot function.

The hard reality is that we depend on our service sector. While we can temporarily survive without restaurants, bars, barbers, hair stylists, libraries, recreational facilities, senior’s organizations, public pools, libraries, theatres, organized sport and many other things, we do not want to. They were created to serve a need and the need persists.

Regrettably, appeals to self-isolate have a limited effect; not everyone will accept directions from governments, and consequently stricter measures including closing of gathering places have been implemented. Other nations around the world have imposed lock-downs of their populations and the provinces have followed suit, shuttering everything but essential businesses to enforce social isolation.

Next week I will be publishing a three part series on the day by day federal response (or lack thereof) to the Coronavirus threat in 2020. It is a very long eye-opener as to how we came to find ourselves in the current situation.

In my opinion, senior provincial health care officials came to our rescue and acted when the federal government failed to do so. Without their intervention our situation would be far worse.

John Feldsted
Political Commentator, Consultant & Strategist
Winnipeg, Manitoba


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