Well we knew the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic would be massive in B.C. as well as in Canada, America and virtually everywhere in the world but this week we have seen that those impacts are even larger than almost anyone imagined, with huge job losses, mounting deaths and pervasive disruptions in the lives of even healthy people, and whole swaths of our economy shut down.
It seems a few health experts maybe did see this coming, probably including B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry because her relatively early interventions to minimize disease transfers have earned praises from experts around North America, but even so most politicians and B.C. and Canada did not see this coming and so are now scrambling to try to minimize COVID's deadly impacts on their regions - including Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who has and still is instituting a range of responses that reach towards radical, such as shoveling billions of dollars into citizens' bank accounts and even sending troops out to help provide health care in some especially hard-hit long-term care facilities in Quebec.
Imagine: sending out troops to care for bedridden seniors (which was because the care aides came down with COVID-19 and no other replacements could be found).
Just how bad is it by the numbers? Stunning. Unprecedented. Possibly with perpetual negative effects.
We learned yesterday (Labour Force data for April) that 2 million jobs have been lost in Canada, which includes 397,000 in B.C. (down 11.5% in B.C. and 13% nationally since February). But those shocking statistics still under-estimate the other pervasive effects, such as preventing every family from visiting their mothers on Mothers Day this Sunday if their mom is in a care home, and enabling 7 million laid-off workers to get the Canada Emergency Response Benefit ($2,000 a month), employers to get wage subsidies for 2 million workers (newly extended beyond June), and 400,000 British Columbians to apply for a similar grant (the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers) of $1,000 a month (which if you do the math comes out to $400 million!).
But even those numbers are dwarfed by the significance of other indicators, with B.C.'s total expected outlays now at $1.7 billion (according to a government website) and probably rising, with B.C. Transit ridership down 83% in Metro Vancouver and fares collected down to about zero, bus, ferry and airline volumes slashed, Canada Day events cancelled, professional sports events cancelled . . . not to mention schools and daycares mostly closed (except for children of essential workers) and so much more, like Canadian well-drilling stats hitting a 50-year low, operations of beef, pork and poultry slaughterhouses reduced due to COVID outbreaks among low-wage and migrant workers, the closures of restaurants, bars, hair salons and casinos etc. (which have killed many jobs and slashed government revenues), and more.
While one could try to argue (as some have) that it's all an over-reaction, the death and infection numbers argue otherwise: even with first-class care from B.C. hospitals now cleared out of virtually all patients except COVID cases there still have been 127 deaths due to COVID19 to date out of 2,315 hospitalizations, and outbreaks at 34 care homes (of which only 18 have ended) - and those numbers are among the lowest per capita in North America (probably due in part to B.C.'s early interventions and partly due to other factors such as the remoteness of some communities, the relative health of many people, the availability of Medicare and the awful conditions in some other jurisdictions).
As this was being written, for example, the B.C. Ministry of Human Resources was busy trying to move a few hundred homeless people out of tents-in-parks encampments in Vancouver and Victoria and into hotels, motels or other temporary housing (e.g. in the Save-On arena in Victoria), which may or may not prove to be a successful strategy in the long term (because more is needed than an open place to sleep) but may be helpful at minimizing the spread of COVID).
Prime Minister Trudeau on Thursday said "These are tough times but we will get through this and come back stronger than ever" but that will depend on whether the federal and provincial governments can do more than allow the re-opening of medical and dental offices under new safety precautions (as B.C. has just done) and begin to address serious structural problems in the economy, such as the chronic under-paying of service workers in care homes, for production line workers in slaughterhouses and in many other workplaces where low-wage workers are denied the hours needed to qualify for sick pay and other benefits - a flaw that only recently was addressed after it became apparent that care aides forced to work several part-time shifts in different care facilities were as a result transmitting COVID all around them (now there are rules against that, aided by government-funded top-ups in their pay).
Indeed the need to not only grow, but also restructure, the job market is only one of many early lessons from COVID19, along with better protections for workers dealing with the public (e.g. installing plexiglass shields at grocery-store check-out counters) and especially educating people from kids on up to seniors to be more careful to not spread around germs - especially to stay home when one is ill instead of going to work and infecting a dozen or so colleagues - but again there are affordability issues there: should all employers be required to provide sick pay even if their businesses cannot afford it? If so, who pays and how?
Can we work to include a new campaign against organized crime into this picture?
Can we expand our utilization of new clean industries?
Can we build work experiences into more high school courses?
Should we shift to a universal minimum income?
Should B.C. revive the Bank of B.C. and issue a new parallel currency?
Should we recognize that climate alarm is mostly a grossly-exaggerated deceit and our attention should be focused on other priorities like self-sufficiency in food? One hopes so.
There is a lot more I'd like to say about all this (especially re economic restructuring) and perhaps I'll do so in future editions of my related newsletters The Twigg Report (a weekly) and B.C. Politics Trendwatch (a monthly with alerts when something major and new arises). Meanwhile subscription inquiries are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org though subscription costs are still TBA).
Recent statistics on COVID-19 impacts in the United States and other countries suggest that most parts of Canada (i.e. except Quebec, for some reasons) have had less negative impacts from COVID than in most other countries, notably our Five Eyes partners in the United States and United Kingdom. There have been 70,000 deaths from COVID in the United States, with the heaviest outbreaks in New York and New Jersey, with news out today that even several staffers in the White House have tested positive to COVID, though President Donald Trump and Vice-president Mike Pence so far have not been exposed. In the United Kingdom there have been 29,000 deaths from COVID, the highest number in Europe and second in the (western) world behind the U.S., with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson having caught COVID19 and survived it after a stay in an ICU.
What's my point? Well try this on for size: was the COVID19 contagion released into the United States (maybe by China??) in order to undermine President Trump's campaign to win a second term in the voting this coming November? Did some of the insanely jealous and even criminal Democrats aid and abet that? Judging from the dirty tricks they did to try to thwart Trump early in his first term (such as sand-bagging Michael Flynn) you have to think that's a fair question.
Now, who said (wrote) this: "What is happening in America? A haze of deception enshrouds our nation [the USA]. It is stunning how easily journalists, politicians and other figures today deceive people. We must understand the spirit behind this deception, as it is far more dangerous than most people realize"?
Any correct answers to email@example.com will win a free introductory subscription.
John Twigg ... is a long-time independent journalist and occasional partisan activist now based in Campbell River.