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At this point, it’s important and fair to note the COVID crisis would have been challenging for any government, given its enormity and mystery. The government made some good decisions, but they also made many critical errors. Most of those errors could have been avoided if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had embraced Parliament, as an essential service in any properly functioning democracy, rather than shutting it down for the better part of six months.
This shutdown was felt most strongly in Alberta and Saskatchewan, neither of which has a single voice in the Trudeau cabinet. One result was that initial COVID measures didn’t address the plight of unemployed Albertans who had lost their jobs prior to the pandemic. To make matters worse, the government moved full steam ahead with their carbon tax increase, bumping it up by 50 per cent on April 1, at the height of public uncertainty around the pandemic.
Other problems were more broadly felt across the country. The initial wage subsidy was set at 10 per cent and was only raised to 75 per cent after Conservative MPs applied public pressure. Programs established to help small businesses pay their rent were poorly designed. Measures to help seniors and Canadians with disabilities came much later than they should have. Many of these situations were eventually remedied to some extent, but valuable time was lost, and much stress was needlessly incurred.
While Liberal ministers talked endlessly about a “Team Canada approach”, nothing could have been further from the reality. Had our parliament been sitting (following public health guidelines, of course) and meaningfully debating (as others were doing around the world), our response would have been much timelier and better tuned to the needs of all Canadians.