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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 – Rising from the Ashes (Part Two)


When we are faced with a loss of much of our income our first priority is to stop spending on anything that is not absolutely necessary. We conserve what funds we have to stretch them as far as possible.

We have a huge challenge ahead, not just to restart our economic engines, but to do so in a way that will strengthen the fabric of our society and nation.

Governments have shut down our economy excepting for some essential services. Government efforts to mitigate the loss of income suffered by our workforce as a result of isolation is a necessity. However, there is no evidence that governments are curtailing other spending that is not absolutely necessary.

Why not?

My mailbox is suddenly filled with messages about someone pontificating about who is responsible for the coronavirus and pointing fingers at China and government officials who did not act with promptness. That is an irrelevant distraction.

We have been handed a hard lesson in reality. We must not depend on others or on UN agencies to warn us of potential threats to our society.

Asked about media reporting that Beijing fudged data on COVID-19, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland recently said Canada turns to the World Health Organization for virus information, given that a global response to the pandemic is essential.”

What is important is Canada’s response to the epidemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) did not act in our interests and cannot protect our society. Providing health care to Canadians is our responsibility.

The WHO is not accountable to anyone. Our governments are. There is no “global response” to coronavirus. Each nation is on its own in providing health care for its population. It is a hard lesson in the hazards of globalization which is useless theory in a crisis or emergency.

Our governments have to pivot sharply and focus on creating plans to rebuild our economy to become as robust, self-reliant and self-sustaining as possible. We must become energy self-sufficient. We must ensure that we can produce vital equipment and supplies in Canada and not depend on outside suppliers. We must put a priority on developing our natural resources and on refining those resources to take advantage of the value added to our exports.

We have to rethink our approach to vital infrastructure. Our inter-provincial and intercontinental highways, railways, ferries, pipelines and power transmission lines must be declared federally protected routes vital to the nation. Any interference with a federal rout, including strikes and protests, is a criminal act with heavy penalties.

Constitutionally, the federal government is responsible for any infrastructure that connects provinces or connects Canada to ports of export and import. Connections between our major east to west railroads and highways to ports become federal routes protected as above.
 
Our dependence on trucking to move products including foodstuffs and household necessities means that federal routes must be provided with adequate services for truckers to ensure they can find the food, fuel and services they need at reasonable intervals.                


The signs stating “shut Canada down” during the railway blockades and other “protests” at public places mounted at the same time have come to pass although from a different threat. 

It is ironic that the protestors now find themselves particularly vulnerable when their dreams have come true.

Planning for emergency preparedness cannot be done without full participation of our provincial premiers. Successful planning means everyone involved has to be aware of the plans and how they will be executed. We cannot make it up as we respond as we have done with coronavirus.

When our society is threatened from any source, we must have a broad response with all of our resources, federal and provincial, trained and prepared to act. We are in this together.

We have discovered, to our horror, serious weaknesses in our health care systems. In our panic to impede the spread of coronavirus we have cancelled non-essential health care delivery, and many diagnostic services, putting our general population at increased risk arising from untreated health problems. 

Even cancer patients are having diagnostics and treatments postponed. We have to do much better. A planned response would be of huge benefit.

We can develop a militia of health care providers trained to 'first responder' level who could step in to provide support in any crisis or emergency including natural disasters. Graduates of the training would have priority in further training in our paramedic and nursing disciplines while earning pay during training and regular exercises to maintain proficiency.

We have a challenge ahead and working together we are up to it. Emergency preparedness planning will have to pass a public smell test. We will not have our rights and freedoms arbitrarily compromised a second time.


John Feldsted is a political commentator, consultant and strategist.  He makes his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba

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