Take a deep breathe, take a valium, or whatever works, because this constant bombardment of COVID stories – about this model or that, predicting thousands more cases a day and thousands more deaths and the collapse of the hospital system in three weeks, no two weeks, no wait, it will be one week – is not helping.
How many times can experts keep making these predictions before people stop listening?
Yes, this is very serious, and yes, people need to get with the program, frustrating and painful as it can be. We face very real risks and our collective behaviour will determine if they come to pass.
But this constant drum beat of imminent doom in an attempt to scare people into complying appears to be having the opposite effect. For example, one newspaper columnist recited a public opinion poll that said nearly 80 per cent supported more stringent rules but only about 70 per cent were complying with them. There has to be a better way.
We are also being bombarded by hyperventilating experts and pundits second and third guessing every decision made by our political and public health leaders.
Perhaps two of the worst examples of hyperbole came from public figures who should know better.
When Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said, in response to a question on how people could prove they had been vaccinated, that the government was considering an official confirmation document, one civil rights leader objected by saying, what next, putting yellow stars on our clothing? The reference to the badges Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis in World War II was over the top, to say the least.
The second individual accused the government of deliberately delaying action so that when the situation worsened, they could look like heroes when they did act. Really? A government full of politicians and public health leaders deliberately putting their own families and friends at risk to make a political point?
Our leaders in Ontario and Ottawa can be accused of many failings in the handling of COVID, but that is not one of them.
We could also use a little perspective on the political and social turmoil to the south of us. It has dominated the news so much for so long that too many commentators talk like it was happening here, like the social issues facing our neighbour were identical to the social issues here at home.
Yes, Canada has its own social problems. We can’t afford to be complacent, as is sometimes our wont, because our neighbour’s experience demonstrates what happens if we do. But at the same time, lets ensure we consider solutions to our challenges, not theirs.
That need for perspective would also help when we start complaining about how badly off we are. These are difficult times so it’s natural to think our problems are worse than others, that we deserve special dispensation or that others are getting special treatment.
There is no doubt this pandemic has inflicted great suffering on many people and that there have been some egregious examples of individuals ignoring the same public health advice that they themselves promoted.
But before we publicly voice our own complaints give a thought to those among us who really are facing much more difficult circumstances.
So let’s try a little perspective this year and give our leaders a bit of a break. Yes, there have been mistakes and miscues, bad decisions and lousy communications. But most are trying their best to deal with an unprecedented situation with few right or wrong answers, only a series of less wrong choices.
It would be easy if there was a clear consensus on what should be done, but there isn’t. Experts remain divided on the wisdom of lockdowns. To lock down or not to lock down, both have serious risks and consequences.
But whatever the final determination, we all need to do our bit to be part of the solution. We know the drill, stay home as much as we can, wear our masks, wash our hands. There will be more than enough time for the critical de-briefs after we can again hug a friend.
Janet Ecker is a former Ontario Finance Minister, Minister of Education, Minister of Community and Social Services and Government House Leader in the governments of Premier Mike Harris and Premier Ernie Eves. After her political career, she served as the founding CEO of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance, a public-private partnership dedicated to building Toronto region into an international financial centre. She currently sits on a number of corporate and non-profit boards, agencies and advisory committees.
Ms. Ecker received the Order of Canada for her public service contributions and was recognized as one of the “Most Influential People in the World’s Financial Centres” by Financial Centres International. She also received a “Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award” from the Women’s Executive Network and the Richard Ivey School of Business, among other awards. She is also one of the founders of Equal Voice, a national, multi-partisan organization working to elect more women.