Contrary to myth, Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been an argument in favour of big government but a savage indictment of it.

The massive amounts of government spending embarked on by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that will be paid for by future generations to deal with the health and economic fallout of COVID-19 doesn’t demonstrate the value of big government and massive bureaucracies.

It demonstrates the enormous price we are paying for the failure of big government to do its most fundamental job — protect the health and well-being of Canadians.

Simply put, thousands of Canadians could have been saved from death and tens of thousands spared from infection had Canadian governments of all stripes done their jobs competently over the past two decades.

The excuse by today’s politicians, governments and bureaucrats that “no one could have seen COVID-19 coming” is absurd.

Since the 2003 SARS epidemic and 2009 H1N1 pandemic in Canada, there have been at least five major federal studies — in 2019, 2018, 2011, 2006 and 2003 — warning that Canada was not prepared for another highly contagious pandemic.

Every one of the problems they identified — from insufficient stockpiling of medical supplies, to inadequate testing capability, to a lack of co-ordinated data-sharing between federal, provincial and municipal governments — has happened again with COVID-19.

Ditto chronic hospital overcrowding and hallway medicine, resulting in the mass cancellation of elective surgeries and treatments to prepare for COVID-19, creating another looming medical crisis — the huge backlog of patients now awaiting these often vital procedures.

Had governments simply followed the advice of their own experts in multiple reports they commissioned going back 17 years, instead of ignoring their recommendations once the immediate crisis was over time and time again, far fewer patients and health care workers would be sick and dying today.

The greatest government failure of all has been in Canada’s nursing, retirement and long-term care facilities where almost half of all COVID-related deaths have occurred and between 70% and 80% in the hardest-hit provinces, Ontario and Quebec.

In 1966, the final report of the Senate committee on aging (cited by Trent University’s Amy Twomey in her 2013 article titled The Marginalization of Long-Term Care in Canadian Federal Policy Making) identified chronic problems in the institutional care of the elderly that continue more than half a century later.

The committee said it was “reminded on all sides of the gaps and weaknesses in current facilities for meeting the health needs of older people” and the “extreme shortage … of facilities designed and equipped to meet the needs of long-term patients.”

“The committee noted that many older people with long-term care needs were ending up in hospitals because of a lack of nursing home beds, and in municipal homes for the aged (which were not originally designed to provide skilled nursing home care).”

“So desperate is the situation that even nursing homes of such poor quality that, according to authorities, ‘they should not be in operation’ have long waiting lists.”

Sound familiar?

While there are well-run nursing homes with dedicated staff, every one of these problems identified five decades ago still exist today, including, as Twomey wrote, that “for the most part, older people with long-term care needs and their mainly female caregivers have rarely seen their concerns occupy national policy agendas.”

Or provincial government agendas, who are responsible for these facilities.

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