Carson Jerema: Trudeau government failed to keep out variants that are tearing through Canada

When accounting for the federal government’s performance on containing the virus, it’s hard to understand why anyone would approve

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It was in the power of the federal government to contain the current wave of the pandemic, fuelled as it is by more contagious variants, through border controls or more timely vaccine procurement. But you won’t hear any contrition from the prime minister. When asked during question period Tuesday about his government’s slow vaccine rollout, Justin Trudeau deflected and said the “facts” are that health restrictions are what are needed to blunt the spread of COVID-19. In other words, take it up with the provinces.

Public health measures are indeed needed, and, excepting Atlantic Canada, the provinces’ execution on this front have ranged from barely useful to negligent, but that doesn’t absolve the federal government of its very real failures.

Countries that have been more successful at addressing the pandemic have done so with a robust response from national governments, whether from more timely border controls or more effective vaccine procurement. The U.S. started out as a disaster but federal funding for vaccine development has Canadians today looking south with envy.

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In Ontario, there are now regularly over 4,000 new cases a day, and a record 1,877 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including over 600 in intensive care. Hospitals are cancelling non-urgent surgeries and patients are regularly being transported from one hospital to another to address capacity problems. The third wave has risen faster than previous waves, as the variants have taken hold. Ontario’s own modelling predicted a similar scenario back in February, but the government avoided implementing stronger measures until last week.

An Angus Reid poll last Friday bears out the frustration people have with their governments, particularly the provinces. In Ontario, 65 per cent of those polled disapprove of how Doug Ford’s government has handled the pandemic. In Alberta, it is fully 75 per cent. These numbers seem entirely appropriate, and reflect the visibility of provincial measures, and a desire for this nightmare to finally end.

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Comparatively, the feds get off easy. Only 52 per cent disapprove of Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic. This might be because the provinces have done a worse job than Ottawa, but just as likely it’s because while it’s Ford who closes restaurants, it is Trudeau who cuts laid-off workers cheques so they can still pay their rent.

When accounting for the federal government’s actual performance on containing the virus, it’s hard to understand why anyone would approve. It wasn’t until February that air travellers were tested on arrival and required to quarantine in a hotel for three days.

“Nobody wants a third wave to start, particularly not one comprised of new, more communicable variants that can cause real challenges,” Trudeau said when bringing in the new measures.

Well a third wave is here and it is heavily spiced with variants of the Sars-CoV-2 virus. Only a handful of variant cases had been identified in Canada when Trudeau brought in the quarantine rules, but there are now over 40,000 cases, including the strains first detected in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil.

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Countries that have succeeded most at keeping variants out — Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea — have implemented more consistent travel bans and more comprehensive testing and quarantining of travellers than Canada, which implemented measures late or relied on travel advisories.

Kelley Lee, a professor of global health governance at Simon Fraser University, said countries with more effective border controls are enjoying a return to normal. “What you see within these countries, which become a kind of ‘virus safe zone,’ is the ability for people to move about more freely and to live near-to-normal lives,” she wrote in an emailed response.

As for Canada, she says, “we now have a huge problem with variants that are draining government resources far more, that constitute a public health emergency, and that are clearly linked to travel.”

So, yes, the provinces failed to control the spread of the virus, and failed to use prior shutdowns to build up testing and tracing capacity, but this wave has the potential to become so much worse because of the variants the federal government failed to keep out.

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Then there is Ottawa’s performance on acquiring vaccines. At a little over two per cent of the population fully vaccinated, Canada sits behind 40 other countries. This isn’t as bad as some of the government’s worst critics suggest, once you consider that a handful of countries — the U.S., U.K., Israel — are way out in front.

But it is middling nonetheless, and as vaccination appears to be the only true way out of the pandemic, wholly demoralizing. Ontario is currently vaccinating nearly 100,000 people a day but claims it has capacity to give another 50,000 shots a day if there was supply.

That supply will come but not before more avoidable harm from the virus and the unpleasant measures imposed to contain it.

One objection to the notion that Canada needs more supply is that on any given day, Ontario has about 20 per cent of its vaccine in storage. However, this is pretty typical, according to an online COVID-19 tracker, which manually updates vaccination data from each province.

Ontario’s usage rate on Wednesday afternoon was 76 per cent, which was the same as B.C. and just behind Quebec’s. That is on par with the U.S. usage rate of 77 per cent. The European Union’s rate was 84 per cent. Ontario’s vaccination plan has been criticized for being confusing, but on the raw metric of jabbing people in the arm, the province is in line with much of the world.

Acknowledging the federal government’s culpability in this mess doesn’t somehow negate provincial mistakes. Shared responsibility for pandemic management has confused who is accountable, and the Liberals just might be rewarded with a majority.

National Post
cjerema@postmedia.com
Twitter.com/CarsonJerema

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Judge Strikes Down Kansas Law Banning Dismemberment Abortions Tearing Babies Limb From Limb

A Kansas judge struck down a pro-life law Wednesday that bans dismemberment abortions on nearly fully-formed unborn babies.

The Kansas City Star reports Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson said the law is “unconstitutional” based on a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that describes abortion as a “fundamental right.”

Passed in 2015, the law bans dismemberment abortions that tear nearly fully formed unborn babies limb from limb while their hearts are still beating. These types of abortions typically happen in the second trimester. About 600 unborn babies are aborted by dismemberment in Kansas every year.

Because of the legal challenge, Kansas has never been allowed to enforce the pro-life law.

Pro-life leaders in the state responded to the ruling by emphasizing the need for a state constitutional amendment to correct judicial overreach. The Value Them Both Amendment, which declares that there is no right to abortion or taxpayer-funded abortion in the state, is slated to be on the ballot for voters’ approval in August 2022.

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“Value Them Both is the option, it is our only option,” said Brittany Jones of the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas. “We’re not surprised in any way shape or form. This is what we’ve been telling legislators for two years now, and we had legislators who doubted us. Now we have proof that we were exactly correct.”

Without the amendment, pro-life leaders said the courts could continue to strike down pro-life laws and even force Kansas taxpayers to pay for abortions, as courts in other states have done. For example, West Virginia voters passed a similar state constitutional amendment in 2018 after decades of being forced by a court ruling to fund elective abortions with their tax dollars.

Meanwhile, abortion advocacy groups celebrated the ruling, saying the dismemberment ban was “purely political.”

“Today’s decision reaffirms that ruling and ensures that Kansans have access to the best abortion care,” said Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement. “This ban made it a crime for doctors to use their best medical judgment. This is not about medicine, it’s purely political.”

Kansas was the first state in the nation to ban dismemberment abortions on unborn babies. Since then, 12 other states have joined it: Ohio, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Kentucky, North Dakota, Indiana and Nebraska. However, most are being blocked by pro-abortion legal challenges.

Dismemberment abortion, sometimes referred to as dilation and evacuation (D&E), is a procedure in which the abortionist dilates the woman’s cervix and then uses steel instruments to dismember and extract the baby from the uterus. It is a common second-trimester abortion method that dismembers a nearly fully-formed unborn baby by tearing them limb from limb while their heart is still beating.

In many cases, the unborn babies may feel excruciating pain as they are being dismembered, Dr. Donna Harrison of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists testified before the Michigan state legislature previously. She pointed to studies and practices where unborn babies in the second trimester are given anesthesia during fetal surgery to protect them from feeling pain.





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Clarence Thomas Provides Legal Roadmap To Tearing Down Censorship

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas offered a roadmap to eliminating rampant social media censorship from online monopolies on Monday.

In a ruling for writ of certiorari on the case of President Joe Biden v. Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, Thomas concurred in an opinion to send the case back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit with instructions to dismiss as moot, now that Biden is in the White House. The case, launched in August, questions whether the First Amendment strips government officials of their ability to block third-party accounts on Twitter if the personal account is used to conduct official business. The lower court ruled Trump violated the First Amendment when blocking users on the platform, which served as a public forum.

“I write separately to note that this petition highlights the principal legal difficulty that surrounds digital platforms,” Thomas wrote, “namely, that applying old doctrines to new digital platforms is rarely straightforward.”

Thomas went on to outline a blueprint for breaking up protections that enable corporate tech monopolies to engage in widespread censorship frequently in one direction. The conservative justice’s argument rests primarily on the monopoly power Big Tech conglomerates possess in Silicon Valley, where unilateral control of the public forum means no real public forum at all.

“It seems rather odd to say that something is a government forum when a private company has unrestricted authority to do away with it,” Thomas wrote. “The disparity between Twitter’s control and Mr. Trump’s control is stark, to say the least.”

In January, Twitter kicked then-President Trump from the platform altogether.

“Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors,” Thomas emphasized. “Also unprecedented, however, is the concentrated control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties. We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.”

Aside from Twitter, Thomas highlighted the dominant influence of Google and Amazon. Google, Thomas noted, serves as the “gatekeeper” between users and speech with power over 90 percent of internet searches.

“It can suppress content by deindexing or downlisting a search result or by steering users away from certain content by manually altering autocomplete results,” Thomas wrote. Amazon, meanwhile, as the distributor of a majority of e-books and half of all physical books, “can impose cataclysmic consequences on authors by, among other things, blocking a listing.”

Earlier this year, Amazon deplatformed conservative scholar Ryan T. Anderson and his book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment,” a book critical of the left’s efforts to mainstream transgenderism to a radical degree.

Now, when users search Anderson’s book title into Amazon, it’s not his book that shows up. Instead, it’s a work titled “Let Harry Become Sally: Responding to the Anti-Transgender Moment.”

Thomas himself has fallen victim to Amazon’s censorship. In February, during Black History Month, the company removed a documentary about the only black justice currently serving on the Supreme Court from its streaming service.

The PBS title, “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words,” appeared ripped from the platform while Amazon still promoted other titles under the category of Black History Month, such as “All In: The Fight For Democracy,” with Stacey Abrams, and two movies on Anita Hill, Thomas’s accuser of sexual misconduct who attempted to derail his confirmation.

“It changes nothing that these platforms are not the sole means for distributing speech or information,” Thomas wrote. “But in assessing whether a company exercises substantial market power, what matters is whether the alternatives are comparable. For many of today’s digital platforms, nothing is.”





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