Friday April 3, 2020
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday April 3, 2020
Trudeau must reveal COVID-19 national projections
It’s time for Justin Trudeau to tell us just how bad the COVID-19 pandemic could get in Canada.
The prime minister holds in his hands science-based models that project how many people might get this illness and, just as crucially, how many might die from it.
Yet he’s doggedly keeping this vital information secret, despite the fact many other political leaders are levelling with their public about the viral tsunami barrelling their way.
Even Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who had previously resisted publicizing such projections, just did a complete about-face.
“You deserve to know what I know,” he told Ontarians Thursday as he announced that the province’s top doctors would on Friday provide the modelling numbers for where Ontario was, is and could be.
It was only Wednesday when Ford said people might panic if they learned those projections. Now, he says the information will provide the public with “a real wake-up call.”
This is one of those rare occasions when Trudeau should follow Ford’s lead. Trudeau’s condescending, father-knows-best rejection of the public’s right to know infantilizes mature Canadian adults and leaves them in the dark — just when they most need the bright light provided by the latest scientific research to guide them forward.
Not only are his excuses for doing this flimsy, they’re self-contradictory. In one breath, Trudeau says he won’t release the pandemic predictions prepared by Canada’s top public health officials until they’re more accurate.
In the next breath, he suggests those projections are unreliable because the response of Canadians in the coming days will change them. But that argument, taken to its logical conclusion, means even Ottawa’s best projections will always be useless because they could always be altered by future events.
And if that’s so, why does the government bother making such projections at all? If they serve no purpose in helping Canadians know how to act, they serve no purpose in directing federal policy.
Finally, if the pandemic models are so problematic, it made no sense for Trudeau to promise that he looks “forward to sharing more information with Canadians in the coming days” after he consults with the premiers.
The only way people will truly comprehend the life-and-death stakes of COVID-19 is if Trudeau gives them the facts as he knows them.
That’s what Premier Ford rightly decided to do. It’s what even the much-maligned Donald Trump has done. On Tuesday, the president allowed the release of sobering projections from the top U.S. scientists battling the coronavirus. They indicated it could kill 100,000 to 240,000 Americans.
Likewise, in mid-March new modelling from the Imperial College of London demonstrated stronger measures were urgently needed to cut the projected COVID-19 death-toll in the United Kingdom from 260,000 to 20,000. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who entrusted the nation with these numbers, changed course almost immediately.
Trudeau owes the public this kind of transparency — and trust. There are too many rumours and fake news stories spreading alarms in this country. There is no cure, as yet, to COVID-19. A steady flow of solid information from the government, however, is the best cure for public confusion and fear. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)