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I don't like to add stuff I should have written in the original post, but sometimes the comments shake some extra thoughts loose.

(1) 20 years ago — which is not the same as "In ancient Rome," it's practically yesterday — expert inquiries were held into the handling of a pandemic, at both the federal and provincial (Ontario, where SARS mostly happened) levels. It wasn't some astonishing miracle. It seemed reasonable — again, not to our ancestors, but to our slightly younger selves — to look around after a mess and think about how to avoid future messes. I actually don't believe we've lost that mojo, as a species. I believe this sort of behaviour is still possible.

(2) The earlier inquiries had zero effect on electoral outcomes. Most things that happen in politics have zero effect on the next election. People need to stop judging things on the fear that they'll hurt "our team" or the hope that they'll hurt "their team." It's a childish way to see the world. Governments need to govern, or all is lost. That's all.

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A reader passed along André Picard's column, which makes a counter-argument:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-should-canada-conduct-a-national-covid-response-inquiry-the-bmj-thinks/

André basically says, we know what's not working and we need to get on with it. It's appealing.

Briefly, the caveat I'd offer is the early-February federal-provincial meeting on health care, the cruellest parody of executive federalism I've seen in 30 years. Since this is now how health care is managed, I think it's still fair to hope a grownup wanders into the shot, writes down some grownup advice, and holds a news conference to make the advice hard to ignore.

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What is forgotten and overlooked was the Covid ELECTION September 2021. The Trudeau government was hoarding doses to ensure jabs for the electorate. I was disgusted by this at the time but content that I had more than one good reason (LRT Funding, etc) not to stand for re- election as a Liberal MP.

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Would it be possible to achieve health care reform in this country without an independent enquiry into our handling of the pandemic? That is the question I wrestle with because - as you rightly note - nothing much improved as a result of the Naylor report on SARS. COVID exposed shortcomings in our public health infrastructure that had been growing for years. I am not sure that a public enquiry would improve the situation. The possibility of identifying leading practices from across the regions is intriguing, though: leadership does not reside solely at the federal level.

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I’m reminded of the fact that Naylor was part of the Govt’s expert panel on the pandemic (whatever it was called). I recall waiting for him to appear on The Peoples Network as a talking head for a voice of reason on the mess. How could he have failed to pass along his advice unless he was speaking to the deaf?

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Jul 25, 2023·edited Jul 25, 2023

I'd be interested in where the PMO obtained the science he used to impose the mandates that led to the trucker's convoy. I think I saw info from Rebel News (Yes, I know you all hate them) where they filed an FOI to obtain those details, and from what I recall, the PMO had no supporting documents. Jodi Raybold-Wilson and Bill Morneau both said that PMJT rarely had a face to face with his ministers. Rather he sent underlings to communicate with them. I wonder if JT implemented a vaccine mandate at that time, just because he could. Why would one be imposed on truckers who for the most part sat and slept in the truck for most of the time? I doubt we'll see an enquiry into foreign interference any more than we'll see one on COVID. It's especially shameful the way the elderly were treated.

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Well the USA implemented a vaccine mandate for all truckers entering the US, so it had to be the same here. But there was no need to mandate vaccines for all, we already had a high % of people who had been vaccinated.

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I think JT did it because he could. And we all know what they say about absolute power.

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The calls for a public inquiry are well intended but I am dubious about the cost-benefit ratio.

Navel gazing at the near collapse of the medical system is worthless if we aren’t prepared to admit that under capacity in ER, ICU beds, national nursing and doctors staffing existed long before Covid struck. Running a public health system at full throttle in the healthy times leaves little room to maneuver when the seasonal flu or a pandemic strikes.

Also, assessing the epidemiology frontwards and back assumes that another pandemic is just around the corner. Will any lessons from 2022 be applicable in 30-50 years? The advances in medicine make me wonder.

I suspect that many Canadians are wanting some influential people to come out from behind the security walls and do some explaining about things like:

-why did Canada send PPE to China when our own stocks were depleted? Whose idea was that?

- why did Canada enter into a joint vaccine development partnership with China? What were the commercial losses incurred when the agreement went sour?

- how much did Canada pay in premium costs over market price to jump the queue and get vaccines for delivery late in 2021? (See China agreement that went sour above.)

- the Canadian government maintained that vaccine mandates were “following the science”, a curious statement considering that long haul truck drivers were low risk agents of transmission. When will the government release the supporting scientific data?

I would support a full public inquiry if some honest answers were provided to some troubling decisions that were made.

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I think that COVID scared people a lot more than SARS did, and so the appetite for changing the system is much greater, at least among the public. Perhaps this time we will have learned our lesson.

Admittedly, there is a tendency to forget yesterday's existential threat. I still marvel that Public Health Agency of Canada dismantled its early warning information network in May 2019.

As for reviewing the actual decisions, I suspect that we need sociologists and psychologists as much as epidemiologists. Our governments made decisions on the best evidence they had, without ever admitting that the information was extremely limited and subject to revision. Perhaps fooling the population was for the best, but it still bothers me.

As an example, the vaccine effectiveness studies performed by Pfizer and Moderna showed that their vaccines reduced incidents of sickness, especially severe. But studies performed since then suggest that they did not reduce rates of transmissions. Had this been known, or even suspected, in 2021 there might have been no vaccine mandates for truckers. Or there might have been anyway.

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Spot on !! We started procurement late because of the failed/aborted SINOPAC fiasco and then because we were last in line to buy we overbought and overpaid. Let's see the # 's !!

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The key word of course, is "independent".

So far, this government as had several strikes at trying for this ideal, and have consistently failed at it so badly that it is now blatantly apparent they have NO CLUE what the word even means.

IF they decide to do some form of review (and that is, as Paul notes, a VERY big IF) it will NOT be independent at all - and my personal prediction is that it will feature a lot of noise and drama, but the end result will be that the Liberal government will be found blameless, and a LOT of shade will be cast in the direction of every province which has had the impunity to be governed by Conservatives.

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I think jt knows what "independent" means. He just knows he doesn't want it. It interferes with his micromanagement of everything.

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Thank you Paul

May I suggest that an inquiry have some non-Canadian experts on it, preferably including its head. It is too easy for people actually involved in Canada's response to see the entire process through their own lens.

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It's not just a problem that they may see it through their own lens, but also that the likelihood of political neutrality regarding the efficacy of the entire healthcare system - even before COVID - is low. As you noted above, the system was already failing before COVID came along, and (IMO) Trudeau made it worse by making what should be apolitical into something political.

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That Brian Kelcey thread, on how "issues management" has taken over governments, is really extraordinary. Worth reading for anyone with an interest in good government and state capacity. https://twitter.com/stateofthecity/status/1484928614927896582?s=20

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This is excellent. Thanks for the link.

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You're welcome! It's in Paul's post, but I figured I'd include it in the comment so people don't have to go back and look for it.

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Thanks for this, Paul - keep pushing! But I despair - does any government, or political party, care about anything but staying, or getting in power? Still, the only group that can actually do anything is the one in power and we should continue to hold their feet to the fire!

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I think some of the problem presently is that politicians may actually be paid too well. If it was an actual sacrifice to run for office, only the best would do it. Does that mean we're discouraging all but the independently wealthy? Not at all. Lower income brackets who are well-educated (I think you should be educated and know your civics to run) may actually increase their socio-economic status by running, and those making more may have to sacrifice comfort for service. It's a fair tradeoff to become a part of history.

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Seen elsewhere today (Sabrina Maddeaux / National Post): “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s most abhorred three-word phrase: independent public inquiry.” Or did we miss the deep dive into Chinese Election Interference?

Your reference-in-passing to your series on political communications reminds I’ve been meaning to implore you to collect those for slightly more permanent posterity (I don’t trust electrons to be around forever) in a fashion like your Sutherland Quarterly on the Freedom Convoy Inquiry. Bulk up your four to date with the promised concluding “What does it all mean / how to make it better” instalment and it would be about the right word count.

Great piece, as always.

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I’m with the PM on this one. The rush to an “independent national inquiry” is of limited utility.

Of course, as a rational actor, I want the thorough diagnosis that allows us to be healed in future, should we get sick. But this is not that that. BMJ has already delivered the take-aways. Federalism is broken and always has been but we have no way of fixing it. Elder care is actually warehousing people at the lowest cost until they thankfully succumb to it, and if we have to choose their comfort or fighter jets, well, we already made that decision. The national interest supersedes the human rights of others elsewhere, and no one here wants to be reminded of their privilege. What are we supposed to do with all of this, particularly when it sits in the rear-view mirror, and we have today’s problems to manage?

Moreover, like the SARS inquiry – good work done by good people, that really gave us a leg-up – the findings of this inquiry will suffer a similar fate. Regardless of the good intentions of this government, say, the funding of a pandemic readiness unit within Health Canada, all of this would disappear under a Conservative government. An attrition strategy for the civil service is a foregone conclusion, particularly in departments like Health Canada. Anyone who has learned anything will be purged in the layoffs to come, certainly those with views that contradict the opinions of a Conservative government who believe in their “feels over reals”.

What pulled us through the pandemic is the liberal belief that we need to save people today, rather than obsess about a speculative future, and the personal breakthrough that the Deputy PM had with Ontario’s Premier to this end. This could not have happened with a Conservative government in Ottawa. This for me is what needs to remembered.

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What rush?

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Jul 26, 2023·edited Jul 26, 2023

Only Trolls write under the guise of a nom de plume, and in this case: "Optimist"? Really? Nothing optimistic to be found in these comments, just silly conjecture and bias that adds nothing of value to Paul's commentary. What you perhaps need to remember is that better things are achieved when we choose to work together, not when you choose to dismiss and criticize.

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Since you are moved to be churlish, apparently you have your own polemic that challenges mine. Lets see it.

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Agree with your last sentence wholeheartedly..and I digress..can’t help but think of the politician ahead in the polls to whom this applies and am appreciative of who was in office during the pandemic...warts and all!

Am inclined to support a limited independent enquiry focussed on preparing for the next pandemic..and not laying blame or fault finding but on what could be done better..

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Ironically, Optimist, you're pessimistic about what would "disappear" under a Conservative government (e.g., pandemic readiness), but fail to acknowledge that it actually DID disappear under Trudeau's Liberal government. The unit that started with the Chretien government to watch and prepare for any coming pandemic was disassembled by the Trudeau government, which is largely why Canada's response to COVID was so spectacularly and disastrously Keystone Kop-ish. Further to my diagnosis of your pessimism, I'll note that that Chretien pandemic agency actually survived Harper's Conservative government and wasn't disassembled until Trudeau came along. Have at it.

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If only we had a PM capable of creative, constructive initiatives, this could be his opportunity to set the stage for an overdue revamp of our Canada Health Act. Surely the pandemic has provided him with a public more open to thinking outside the box.

For starters, provinces should understand and acknowledge the Federal role. Our current health minister has already begun this effort by requiring the provinces to provide the stats necessary for carrying out federal responsibilities. Provinces that hold out should expect funds to be held back.

Other changes could be introduced after a thorough comparison with the best practices observed in other OECD countries. Many of those countries have better results than Canada (and at lesser cost).

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Quite right, an enquire should be about the future and not the past. I don’t care which political party is in charge when the next event comes, we need them to perform well.

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I like the idea of an inquiry after the dust has settled more. The issue is still raw for many, and the current government can barely function without adding the burden of responding to the demands of an inquiry (or two). I also like the idea of giving academia and think tanks time to take a look at certain aspects of the pandemic response, which could help define scope of any inquiry, and contribute research and data.

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Data has been coming in for some time about how various countries dealt with Covid. Taiwan and Sweden seem to have fared well without lockdowns. I think it’s important to look at the whole picture and compare ourselves. Also the efficacy of the use of Ivermectin in countries like India and Africa is worth knowing. Friends of mine in Ecuador, both unvaxxed used it when they got Covid, and recovered in a short time.

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Florida and certain other States as well .

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Jul 27, 2023·edited Jul 27, 2023

I was in Thailand for all of 2020, and with 72,000,000 Thai and at least 10,000,000 tourists, the death rate from COVID in the entire country was 80. As soon as they were aware of the virus, they stopped all immigration from China. Before being allowed to enter a mall, variety store, large department store, government building we had our temperature taken. Sometimes they asked us to sign in with a phone # in case there was an outbreak in that building and we could be monitored. When tourists came in they gave them a phone chip so they could see how they were doing for a week or so. In that area where I lived there was only a three week lockdown. Thailand wasn't as successful with Omicron for some reason.

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