Human cost of coronavirus must include economic toll

BY JOHN CARPAY  – The Post Millennial

On April 7, a panic-stricken Premier Jason Kenney issued dire warnings about more than 6,000 Albertans dying of COVID-19, and invoked the memory of the Spanish Flu of 1918-20. The Spanish Flu killed between 20 and 50 million healthy young adults around the world. Some historians claim as many as 100 million died, when the world’s population in 2018 was under two billion. If COVID-19 was as deadly as the Spanish Flu, we would see between 75 million and 200 million deaths around the world, and possibly 375 million dead. If COVID-19 was like the Spanish Flu, between 40,000 and 200,000 Albertans would die from it.

This kind of political rhetoric, comparing COVID-19 to the Spanish Flu, has proven, whether intentionally or not, to result in societal fear, passivity and then obedience from citizens who might otherwise object to having their livelihoods destroyed by politicians.

Not everyone is impacted equally. If you are privileged enough to be employed or paid by the government instead of the crippled private sector, you are just fine. Police, health care workers, teachers, social workers, judges, civil servants, politicians and other public sector workers continue to receive their full salaries, while their private sector neighbours slide into unemployment, bankruptcy or poverty.

With many municipal, provincial and federal government services no longer being provided, hundreds of thousands of civil servants across Canada still continue receiving full salaries without suffering the hardships which politicians have imposed on retail staff, restaurant and bar workers, painters, nail salons, barbers, florists, engineers, oil-and-gas workers, massage therapists, dentists, chiropractors, podiatrists, optometrists, physiotherapists, and countless others.

It didn’t have to be this way. COVID-19’s severe and deadly impact targets seniors, while leaving those under 60 largely unaffected. Why was it necessary to throw millions of healthy Canadians, almost all of them private sector workers, into unemployment? To prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed, the politicians told us, based on predictions that divided even the experts. Many politicians still refuse to disclose or explain what models and assumptions their predictions are based on.

Building and staffing additional Intensive Care Units would have cost a small fraction of the tens (or hundreds) of billions that Canadians are now paying in the form of lost wages, bankruptcies and various government hand-outs. Governments should have acted quickly and very decisively to protect people in nursing homes from COVID-19, while allowing children and most adults to develop the herd immunity needed to vanquish this foe.

There is little evidence that the provincial premiers and Prime Minister Trudeau have given serious consideration to the deadly effects of their economy-destroying and poverty-creating social isolation measures. Suicides, alcoholism, drug overdoses, psychiatric disorders, spousal abuse, cancelled surgeries, and a long list of medically necessary treatments which Canadians are no longer receiving: together all will take a heavy toll in lost lives and catastrophic health outcomes.

Many of the good charities which look after weak, vulnerable and isolated citizens are now prevented from carrying out their work, and are no longer able to raise the necessary funds to continue helping people.

It’s easy to assert that human lives matter more than the economy, but that is blind to reality. Human life and human health depend on a strong economy, which alone can pay for the services of doctors, nurses, and other health care workers. When farmers speak about not planting certain crops because they fear the continuation of lockdowns and a standstill economy, it’s time to recognize that we cannot feed ourselves on welfare cheques.

Last but not least, the fanaticism of lockdown policies has unleashed a dark side of human nature. Petty tyrants now ban citizens from healthy and stress-relieving activities like golf, camping, and simply walking in a park, or doing a chin up on a bar during a morning jog.

It’s one thing to enforce social distancing, but quite another for the Calgary police to issue a $1,200 ticket to a minister who was caught feeding hungry and homeless people in the downtown core.
When politicians violate our Charter rights to move, travel, associate, assemble and practice the faith of our choosing, the Charter requires them to weigh the cost of their freedom-restricting policies against the benefits. They have not done so. It’s high time that they start.

Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (