Friday, March 20, 2020

Government Pulls Its Thumb Out. Why Only Now?

The Trudeau government has not distinguished itself in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was slow off the mark declaring an emergency but it's inexcusable failure has been the delay in using its powers to mobilize Canadian industry to help meet the demand for medical supplies and equipment such as ventilators. On that score they're way behind the curve.

It's not as though the federal government lacks powers. A few days ago I took a look at the federal Emergencies Act. Parliament is recalled. A national emergency is declared. The government has 90 days (renewable) to take control of the economy and mobilize industry.

Many of us, most I would hope, have been pretty meticulous in social distancing, self-isolating, washing our hands, avoiding obvious infection risks and such. The government has been reasonably good at telling us what we must do but far from diligent in doing what it is given express powers to do on our behalf.

What would have been a benchmark date on which to judge our government's performance. I think it's fair to go back to when the NBA, MLB, and the NHL  canceled their seasons or when those high-risk septuagenarians, The Rolling Stones, called off their "No Filters" concert tour. By then we should have expected Ottawa to have been up and running with its coronavirus response measures.

Today - only today - does the government of the son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau announce that it's going to direct Canadian industry to ramp up production of medical equipment and supplies so badly needed in hospitals across the country. Today.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a series of new measures Friday to protect Canadians from COVID-19, including a strategy to help manufacturers rapidly ramp up production of medical supplies and a plan to bar asylum seekers from crossing the Canada-U.S. border. 
Trudeau called the measures unprecedented and necessary during an emergency that many are comparing to wartime and the Great Depression. 
Trudeau said the industrial strategy will allow companies already making sanitizers, masks another other equipment to scale up quickly, while mobilizing others to shift production to items that are in high demand.
But wait. Ottawa still hasn't pulled the trigger.
Senior government sources have told CBC News they're hoping to work with existing manufacturers — especially of gloves, masks and ventilators — on a supply chain that's resistant to disruption.
"Hoping" isn't doing. Hoping is anticipatory. Hoping is manana - eventually, when we get around to it.
In addition, sources say, almost every program within the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development will be "refocused" on fighting the virus. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly.
"Will be refocused"? When? This is 'in house' stuff. You're going to, at some time, hopefully soon I'm sure, refocus on fighting the virus. Shouldn't you have been refocused on this weeks ago?

That'll be a big failing grade for the federal government and this prime minister on this one. There are a lot of Canadians who may pay a price for Mr. Trudeau's neglect and tardiness.


Toby said...

This crew has taken all the courses, can do wonderful Power Point presentations, can conduct meetings for months or years but most can not pick up a few tools and hang a door on an outhouse.

Trailblazer said...

I assume that Canada has it's share of Richard Burrs!

In the same vein I also assume millions werre made in BC when Gordon Campbell said, BC Rail is not for sale! then sold it to the delight of the real estate industry.

It's full steam ahead for disaster capitalism.


Rural said...

I'm sorry Mound,I do appreciate your daily (sometimes almost hourly) commentary but do you really think that other governments in waiting would have a different or better response, it is a totally unprecedented situation and no doubt there will be much opportunity to comment upon the actions by both federal and provincial responses later, but how would YOU respond to this challenge? Perhaps has you would rather have Trumh guiding the response, its so easy to throw stones....?

The Disaffected Lib said...

Toby, Trailblazer, look on the bright side or, as I like to call it, 'afternoon naps.' Give it a try. It's delightful.

Not only is an afternoon nap restorative of an aging body but sleep is such a wonderful escape from the non-stop shit show that greets us all day long, every day.

Give'er a try. You'll be glad you did.

Toby said...

Trailblazer is right. While most of us are self-isolating and following all the recommended procedures to fight the virus, the vultures and hyenas are circling.

John B. said...

I've met shift foremen in the steel mills and Sergeant-Majors in the army who would have had a lot of the necessary business sorted out by coffee time. That time was several weeks ago. The average carwash attendant has better sense with respect to urgency than the guiding lights in our Federal Government. Maybe they'll show some skill in panicking.

The Disaffected Lib said...

No, Rural, I have no illusions that a Tory government (for practical purposes our only "government in waiting") would do any better, even as well as the Trudeau government. That, however, is to set the bar laughably low.

We have known for weeks that there is a critical shortage of ventilators needed to treat Covid-19 victims and a range of other supplies required by medical staff to treat patients and for their own protection. This information has not been hidden. It's not been elusive.

Our government has squandered at the minimum two weeks in mobilizing industry to ramp up production of these vital goods. We've known for a long time that our inventories of these machines and other goods were seriously deficient.

Don't raise that Trump business. It's beneath you. And no, this isn't about hindsight or throwing stones.

I have been writing about the Emergencies Act since the darkest Harper days and several times since then. Yet there's been no sign that this government ever heard of it gauging by its feeble and inexcusably tardy response to this pandemic.

Finally, this is not an unprecedented situation although some may imagine otherwise. It is precisely what was in the minds of those who crafted the Emergencies Act, the preamble of which establishes the fundamental duty of government to protect the security and welfare of the public.

In any case the government's performance isn't based on what you imagine to be unprecedented but on what ought to have been foreseeable. When Covid-19 was still a mere epidemic afflicting China, its potential to spread to become a pandemic was foreseeable. That was the time at which a responsible government should have been consulting with manufacturers and suppliers to learn which firms had the capacity necessary to respond effectively and quickly.

For Christ's sake, Rural, this is not rocket science.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Very aptly put, John. You and I have both had the acquaintance of natural leaders who absolutely thrive on challenge and adversity.

On leadership, the military teaches what it can and then winnows those with an aptitude for it from the remainder. It is also honed through regular exercise.

Someone lacking in the core qualities and experience can still rise to the top but won't stay there for long. Eventually they submerge in their own mediocrity and no amount of over-promising can save them from themselves.

Anonymous said...

One thing Trudeau's halting talk this morning did for me is expose what I've thought about Canadian government for decades. We lack a system for back room boys - planning for an emergency of any kind is not an ongoing hidden commitee staffed by public servants and pols. It's NOTHING. There are no organized lists of industry to indicate who can do what, how our society meshes together to work. All pretty indicative of the amateurish and clueless approach government takes on many an issue.

The response to any problem is treated as a special case because there is no embedded process whereby known experts in a field can be summoned together (fom our current non-existent list!) and follow a tried and true process available in a "skeleton" form, which is filled out by the facts of the particular case. No, instead we get "authorities" stumbling around in a haze for quite a while just as if they were a private citizen innocent of facts. And they are.

Beyond this ventilator-manufacturing example, where in essence industry has had to offer help because there wasn't a single stumblebum in government, elected or staff, who had the faintest clue what our own manufacturers are capable of or who to ask, there's more. It never occurred to them to evaluate our capabilities as a country, and they are apparently deaf to university research biology and medical labs whch might be a resource to draw upon. I've read that these folks are champing at the bit to help out in any way they can, but civil servants don't read the news, so don't know about it. Nor do they have a skeleton plan to organize such "temporary" help for the common good.

The government is so disorganized it hurts to watch.

Oh sure, we spent billions on surveillance for CSIS and CSEC agents to sit in comfy chairs and spy on us all. That's easy. Actually being in action on the ground? Not a sign of it. The Lac Megantic train fire exposed the lazy sloppy Transport Canada "inspection" of worn-out railroad tracks. There isn't any or that disgraceful shambles of an operation wouldn't have been allowed to operate in the first place - a 10 km/h speed limit on really bad sections was the public's lot. Inspectors? Who needs 'em? It's a fixed cost that could be abandoned, and the Liberals started it with harper finishing it off. Meat inspection same thing.

Apparently good government is not a two way street. We all have to obey and behave, but there is no reciprocal government response. We get what we're given and the amateur "powers-that-be" take the privilege of coming up with excuses for their poor performance and issuing highly nuanced PR fluff to try to explain things away.

So, I agree, it's a poor show from the top. This time, we need some supremo at the top to run the show, not Trudeau tap dancing. We have a bulldog Chief Medical Officer in Nova Scotia who's getting on with things. There should be a federal equivalent.


Trailblazer said...

Someone lacking in the core qualities and experience can still rise to the top but won't stay there for long. Eventually they submerge in their own mediocrity and no amount of over-promising can save them from themselves.

Too true, so why do we continue to elect such idiots?