Canada’s overall response to the Covid pandemic has been a blow to the country’s national prestige. Canadians are asking themselves why America will get back to normal months before Canada.
They’re supposed to have a superior health care system. They’re supposed to have a more competent and civilized government. They’re supposed to be better than the U.S.
Canada’s leaders used this fantasy to explain away their own failings. “You think it’s bad here, just look at what’s happening in America!”
But Canada got some sobering news recently. The Macdonald-Laurier Institute released a comprehensive, data-driven, comparative study of the pandemic performance of 15 rich industrialized countries and to the shock of Canadians, they finished 11th. Worse, the U.S. finished 9th. It made many in the country realize that their government may have screwed the pooch in responding to the pandemic.
At first a lot of the commentariat scoffed that the Index couldn’t possibly be right because Canada ranked behind the US. But in large part thanks to the irrefutable data we marshaled, America’s superior performance has now become conventional wisdom in Canada, while our own poor performance has recently been mocked in the American and international media.
The numbers don’t lie and while Canada is a smaller nation, its rates of death and infection top those in the U.S.
If anything, in Canada the situation feels worse now than it did at the outset of the pandemic. And while restrictions are more severe than ever, anecdotal evidence suggests that compliance is falling, which will only prolong our misery.
True, the incidence and mortality from COVID-19 has been lower in Canada over most of the pandemic, but recently Canada surpassed the US in cases per million. As well, the rate of ‘excess deaths’, or the increase above trend in deaths from all causes is worse in Canada suggesting that in our country we have focused health care resources on COVID to the exclusion of other urgent health needs, a Faustian bargain indeed.
Canada’s government-run healthcare system wasn’t agile enough to walk and chew gum at the same time. Government usually does a very poor job of directing resources at several problems at once—the market does it much more quickly and efficiently. The U.S. never had a big problem caring for emergency cases like heart attacks and appendectomies while dealing with the pandemic. Even in places like New York City, where the virus was most concerning, care for the sick and injured never wavered and somehow, beds and care were found for all.
Moreover, the economic misery that has been heaped upon us is far greater than in the US. Both countries experienced steep declines in GDP and sizable increases in unemployment. Both countries added significantly to their public debt, although Canada’s borrowing was proportionately greater. However, as COVID-19 conditions have improved in the US, unemployment has fallen, GDP has risen and IMF economic forecasters project rapid growth in output through the remainder of 2021. The forecasts for Canada are more tepid; we won’t recover lost output levels until mid 2022. The US will be a full year ahead.
It will never be acknowledged by the American media, but Trump laid the groundwork for success. Operation Warp Speed and having supply and distribution chains ready to start vaccinating people the moment a vaccine became available means that the pandemic nightmare will end earlier in the U.S. than anywhere else — including Canada.
Canadians still play hockey better than anyone — including Americans — so perhaps they shouldn’t feel so inferior. It’s just a shame that Joe Biden is going to get credit for following up on the success of his predecessor.