OMICRON is here. The Trudeau government has learned something about messaging in a pandemic. Althea Raj writes:
“The pandemic is not over,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra reminded the country Tuesday, as the government announced stringent new measures to help thwart the spread of COVID-19’s new Omicron variant in Canada.
The rules — mandatory on-arrival testing for many air travellers and quarantining in government facilities for some — are tough, and could be expensive and time consuming. At a time when Canadians seem to no longer be afraid of the virus and treat it as a mild inconvenience perhaps it was a needed reminder that life — especially for many outside our borders — is not back to normal.
Alghabra, flanked by Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, demonstrated that the government has learned several lessons from its pandemic management, chief among them to communicate better, and to embrace a cautious and transparent approach.
The ministers mentioned 12 times that the rules could change at any moment as the situation evolves. (That’s for those of you planning a vacation abroad.) Canada has now blocked travellers from 10 African countries because of Omicron, although the variant has also been detected in 13 others.
The ministers also urged Canadians to remain “cautious and prudent.” Public health measures won’t help stop the spread of the virus if Canadians don’t abide by them.
Get vaccinated. Social distance. Wear a mask. Respect capacity limits.
Contrast that with what the Conservatives are saying -- and doing:
The Tory leader, Erin O’Toole, refused to tell Canadians how many of his candidates were unvaccinated; he pledged that any who were not would be tested daily to try to ensure they didn’t spread the virus.
After the campaign, the Conservatives argued it was time to get rid of pricey pre-departure PCR testing at land borders for vaccinated travellers and to move to a rapid antigen test for those arriving by air. (The Liberals scrapped the PCR test only for trips shorter than 72 hours.) At the same time, O’Toole argued there should be no hybrid Parliament, that all MPs should be in the House of Commons in person — where they cannot physically distance — and that no one should be allowed to know how many of his MPs remain unvaccinated.
I’ve been told of two: Niagara West MP Dean Allison and Oshawa MP Colin Carrie. Allison’s campaign manager told his local paper he has a medical exemption. Carrie told constituents two doctors advised him he “cannot receive a currently approved vaccine due to a diagnosed autoimmune disease and adverse reactions to other vaccines,” but two Conservative sources say he doesn’t have a valid exemption as per Ontario’s medical exemption guidance. His office has twice refused to confirm that he has a valid medical exemption. So far, Carrie has been allowed to sit in the Commons.
The Trudeau government has all kinds of flaws. But it can learn from its mistakes. The Conservatives appear to be incapable of learning -- and changing.
Image: Lake Superior News