The politics of COVID 19: it is reshaping our political world

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 21st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

COVID 19 is helping to reshape our political world. Nowhere was that better seen than in the re-election of New Zealand’s young prime minister, who has led her country and shown the world how to deal with the coronavirus. She was rewarded by the voters with a landslide victory and a first ever parliamentary majority since New Zealand adopted proportional government back in the 1990’s.

By contrast there is the US presidential race and if Trump loses, which appears likely, it will be because of his mishandling of the pandemic. Americans are constantly reminded of the quarter million folks who have died under his watch, despite his assurances that the virus was just a flu and would be gone by last May.

NZ prime minister

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Jacinda Ardern is a very talented leader who built a coalition with the Green Party on the left and the NZ First on the right and ably governed to the respect of New Zealanders during the devastating global pandemic. But unlike Canada, New Zealand was prepared for the pandemic and it acted swiftly to contain and eliminate the virus months ago.

There have been the inevitable outbreaks since then, a consequence of allowing returning nationals into the country, but they have been contained by contact tracing and mandatory quarantine. Like Canada, New Zealand closed its borders, but it did so much earlier and avoided much of the initial spread we allowed.

Being a unitary state it was easier, no doubt, to effect a consistent national health care policy. That was also true for the early lock down rules which kept people from spreading the virus. New Zealand is an Island but the virus arrived there as it did here – by airline passengers, so that is no excuse for Canada’s much poorer performance.

NZ sports audience

New Zealanders are now able to attend sports events and concerts – the Covid19 virus

New Zealand’s success can be attributed to its viable and consistent plan which was followed and enforced until the virus was gone in addition to a compliant population who followed the rules and a strong and visionary leader, of course. Today there are only a few active cases remaining – all of which are contained and under quarantine. Meanwhile the rest of the country has gone back to normal. The shops and businesses have re-opened and even crowded sporting events are back.

Masks are no longer required, even on public transport.

The New Zealand economy has taken a hit, along with just about every nation on the planet. International tourism makes up a large portion of the country’s economy. And since the airports are mostly closed to non-citizens, domestic tourism is being promoted to help keep that business sector going.

New Zealand should be a model for how other nations deal with the epidemic and protect their populations. But it is not the only model. Uruguay, another small nation, bordered by Brazil and Argentina, both of which have significant contagions, has done remarkably well. Taiwan with a population five times that of New Zealand has suffered only 7 deaths. And both Uruguay and Taiwan have come through without a lock down so far.

And then there is China, where the virus originated, but which managed to virtually eliminate it in short order and has dealt effectively with the inevitable periodic outbreaks related to foreign travel. But unlike most other nations China’s economy is showing a marked rebound and life is mostly going back to normal.

Ford - dumb thoughtful

Day after day Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario goes before the TV cameras to explain the most recent decision on combating Covid19

So what about Canada? Canada’s focus has always been on ‘Flattening’ rather than ‘Eliminating’ the curve. So when the provincial lock downs had been successful in flattening the infection curve we got carried away with our success, declaring victory and opening up the economy so people could mingle and spread the disease again. We did ask people to wear masks and distance, but the messages were mixed and the test/tracing practices unsuccessful. As sure as night follows day the contagion got a second wind.

Bringing the infection rate down will be much harder this time. Schools are open, cold weather has pushed people inside where the virus is where it wants to be, and we’re COVID fatigued, tired of it all. We’re sick and tired of the restrictions, and the steady stream of bad statistics, and the daily media briefings, and the mixed messages from our politicians, and the economic malaise, and the ever-rising debt we’ll have to reconcile one day.

So perhaps next time our leaders will take a lesson from nations, like new Zealand, which have been successful in overcoming this contagion the first time. And if they do perhaps political rewards, like one kind Jacinda Ardern has just been given, will be in their future as well.

Background links:

Jacinda –   New Zealand Gets IT–    China Gets It

Rivers in maskRay Rivers, born in Ontario earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario and a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office.  Rivers is active in his community,

 

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

3 comments to The politics of COVID 19: it is reshaping our political world

  • Fred Pritchard

    I agree with Perry about Ford looking tired and starting to crack around the edges and return to his ultra partisan ways. What is not being reported is that while Dumb Doug stands there day after day introducing more spending press releases, he isn’t actually spending that money. I have friends inside several Ontario ministries and they are withholding funds from programs that have been ongoing for years. As well as, new programs that are approved in principle and made public, never get started. They don’t sign contracts with suppliers, or actually write the cheques. So next year when this is all over, Dumb Doug will claim he was there to support the people, but also protected the public purse. It will take years for the Auditor General to make public the financial fraud of these daily press releases that introduce spending that never happened.

  • Perryb

    Premier Ford is looking very tired. No doubt he is struggling with cognitive dissonance resulting from having to set aside his ideology and pour money into the areas he has been so anxious to crush – teachers, health, social safety net, experts, etc. Buck-a-beer, blue license plates, and gas pump stickers look pretty silly in retrospect. Overall, he is holding up, but for how long? And there isn’t much talent on the bench if he falters.

  • Okay. I simply have to ask. How much of N.Z.’s success should be attributed to a homogenous, evenly and well educated population, in contrast to the glaring disparities seen in countries like the United States?

Leave a Reply