Why are most Premiers coddling the unvaccinated?

Let me say from the out-start that I have a great deal of respect for those who enter the political arena. The vast majority of politicos mean well and have the interest of our country at heart. They also have, for the most part, a thankless job. It’s not a complaint as much as a statement of fact. They work long hours, earn modest salaries, and face an ever-demanding and cynical public. I know, I’ve been there.

However, when it comes to the provincial responses to the unvaccinated, I don’t know what most of the Premiers are thinking. They have been hugely disappointing and, dare I say, irresponsible.

When the federal Minister of Health recently stated the obvious, namely, that the provinces can order that vaccines be mandatory, most of the Premiers stayed silent and ran for cover. A couple — Jason Kenny of Alberta and Scott Moe of Saskatchewan — without any considered thought, knee-jerked a quick ‘no!’ In Ontario, Premier Ford keeps saying he wishes to eventually do away with vaccine passports, thus encouraging anti-vaxxers to wait it out.

Why is that?

Why continue to coddle the unvaccinated when the virus continues to infect a record number of Canadians?

Why not move more boldly and creatively on policy grounds that are entirely within their jurisdiction?

Why be indifferent to the reality that the unvaccinated are taking up most of the available hospital beds and taxing the health system? Moreover, how do they feel about the thousands of Canadians whose desperately-needed operations are being displaced?

Why indulge individual preferences when group rights, during a public pandemic, are paramount?

Why not be on the side of greater vigilance when the virus has already killed more than 31,000 Canadians and some 5.5 million across the world?

Why, from a purely crass vote-getting perspective, disregard the reality that there are bucketful of votes for Premiers who are prepared to lead with strength and courage? Recent polls indicate broad support for a tougher stand on mandatory vaccines. That’s hardly a surprise when some 90 per cent of Canadians have responsibly complied with getting their shots.

It makes no sense to me. Taking more decisive action would represent a win on both policy and political grounds, and such alignment is not always possible with many issues of the day.

Most provinces are making a mockery out of promoting and safeguarding public health, especially when the Premiers are all in when it comes to provincial public safety mandates. For example:

  • When it comes to driving, you must have a license, you must wear a seatbelt, you must respect speed limits, and you cannot drink and drive
  • When you put a pool in your backyard, you must fence it in
  • Minors cannot drink alcohol
  • There are regulations and prohibitions when it comes to handguns
  • Companies cannot dump toxic materials into our waterways
  • You cannot willfully disturb the Peace
  • And so on….

The rules are clear and uncompromising. And that’s the way they should be, as they build secure, safe, and orderly communities. So, why the double standard when it comes to protecting public health?

Some would argue that putting a jab in the arm is different. That it’s a matter of deep personal principle. Really? Where was that principle when thousands of unvaccinated Quebecers quickly lined up for their shots, rather than being denied their right to buy booze at their local liquor store? Bookings for first doses jumped from 1500 a day to 6000. God forbid that they go without their daily chug.

Or, where was the principle when, after the Premier of Quebec intimated that there could be a health tax imposed on the unvaccinated, many more thousands of citizens ran to their medical clinics for the jab?

Or, where was it when people lined up for their vaccines after Premier Kenny initially offered his unvaccinated citizens $100 to do so?

The truth is that those principals swiftly fell by the wayside.

And what are we to make of the recent conference call between the PM and Premiers a few days ago? The major headline emerging from their discussion was that the provinces, not surprisingly, called for larger financial health transfers from the feds. I will not argue the merits of that demand. But, if the Premiers are serious that their healthcare systems are being starved of funds, then how can they possibly square that with their indifference with the unvaccinated, who are currently consuming a disproportionate amount of health care resources? It is estimated that an unvaccinated patient is 14 times more likely to end up in an ICU, with each stay costing approximately $50,000.

Where’s the principal in that?

Beyond Canada, with each passing day, we see more and more governments moving against the unvaccinated. France, Italy, Austria, Greece, and Singapore, among others, have put in place a variety of measures induced to get people, without compromising medical issues, vaccinated. This is not because they have a particularly mean streak. It’s because they are concerned about health systems that are stretched to the breaking point, and with the incredibly high infection rate of their citizens, thanks to the latest omicron variant.

Most of our Premiers are on an unsustainable path when it comes to their approach to the unvaccinated. They are failing us badly. They are placing dogma and stubbornness ahead of sound public health policies.

As well, in a misguided strategy, the federal Conservative Leader, Erin O’Toole, continues to provide them with federal political air cover. Strange indeed, given where most of the voters across Canada reside on this issue.

It’s not too late for the Premiers to do the right thing and reverse course. To demonstrate that they have heard and learned from their constituents and the medical community.

And to join the growing coalition of the willing in Canada and around the world. The willing who will not humour a small minority, at the risk of disrespecting and endangering the responsible majority and placing their respective health care systems at greater risk of collapse.