The pandemic’s second wave is coming to Canada this fall. In fact, with daily COVID-19 cases reaching 478 in Ontario and 489 in Quebec on Tuesday, it’s fair to say it’s already here. If previous pandemics are any indication, this wave will be deadlier than the first one. 

Already, political leaders and parts of the media are looking for someone to blame. If you were to listen to them, you’d get the idea that a selfish and short-sighted populace is responsible. 

Earlier this month, Toronto Mayor John Tory said of two outbreaks in the city that “you can’t legislate common sense.” Likewise, Ontario Premier Doug Ford blamed young people sharing marijuana “doobies” and holding backyard parties for case spikes. Federally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to put the responsibility of controlling the outbreak on Canadians wearing masks, washing their hands and avoiding public gatherings. Likewise, Ottawa’s medical officer blamed the second wave on people being “too relaxed” and having too many gatherings.

In the social sciences, this effort is known as responsibilization, a process where “subjects are rendered individually responsible for a task which previously would have been the duty of another — usually a state agency — or would not have been recognized as a responsibility at all.” 

In other words, our political and bureaucratic leadership, aided by the media, has pushed a narrative that individuals have the responsibility to defeat the pandemic, and any outbreaks — past, present and future — are the fault of people who break unclear and largely unenforced rules.

Yet in reality, our political leaders have failed to control this pandemic and have put all of our lives in danger with their incompetence and negligence. Here are just a few examples of how this second wave has more to do with their inadequacies than anything in the control of individual Canadians. 

To start, the period of complete lockdowns across the country and of relatively low case numbers wasn’t properly utilized. It should have been used to develop testing and tracing capacity, which is key to controlling the spread of the disease. The goal of such efforts should have been what is happening in countries such as South Korea, which already had a functioning system back in early spring. Tests were so readily available there that people could get tested in drive-throughs and get results sent to their phones within 24 hours. 

Compare that to Canada, where hours-long lines for tests have already popped up across the country within days of schools reopening. In Ontario, large health institutions such as North York General in Toronto are already overloaded with requests, with six hour lines being common in the province. In Quebec, one testing centre began handing out tickets, similar to the ones given in a deli, so that people wouldn’t be waiting in line, but ran out by noon. 

Furthermore, Canada doesn’t even have a contact tracing app yet. The much-lauded COVID Alert app merely notifies individuals of exposure and doesn’t allow officials to trace who infected individuals were in contact with. 

Moreover, despite the almost singular emphasis on masks and social distancing by our officials, they haven’t done enough to actually gain compliance for these behaviours. Government officials have opened the country’s establishments and workplaces and told Canadians that activities like indoor dining are safe, yet have failed to make sure those establishments are following guidelines

In Ontario, indoor and outdoor gatherings have been limited to 10 and 25 people respectively, but these limits don’t apply to bars, religious establishments or practically anywhere else. 

Further, the federal government is ending CERB and leaving many people no choice but to go out to work even when they should self-isolate. 

Perhaps most importantly, schools are now opening across the country without anywhere near the procedures and infrastructure needed to prevent children from contracting the disease and taking it home with them. Teachers across Ontario have posted pictures of dangerously overcrowded classrooms, and the Toronto District School Board admitted schools are breaking mandated class caps.

On top of all of this, the hopes for the pandemic being controlled in the future are also bleak, as the Federal Government has botched Canada’s vaccine sourcing. While states in Western Europe have ordered more than a billion doses from companies in the final phases of vaccine development, the Canadian government has preferred Canadian companies who have barely started the process. This has put us in a position where we may not be able to get vaccines quickly when and if they become available.

Even if Canadians followed the conflicting rules that officials have put forward perfectly, the second wave would still have happened due to the sheer scale of the government’s failures. 

Canadians, most of whom haven’t succumbed to anti-mask conspiracies, aren’t responsible for this outbreak. Our leaders are just trying to steer the conversation away from their negligence and incompetence. 

We can’t let them.

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