COVID-19 response and gas/oil
We must fund the legitimate concerns of First Nations such as housing and clean water and also health expenditures to contain COVID-19 and future pandemics. This requires freeing up more acute beds in hospitals, many already above capacity.
But a militant minority group should not undermine the economic prosperity of a nation. Rail service across Canada has been halted for three weeks. Protests have disrupted shipments of food, grain, propane, oxygen, and chlorine.
In my opinion, the Coastal GasLink project not only would have had major economic benefits to Indigenous groups along the route, but it would have – possibly –reduced Asian demand for coal in favour of cleaner gas and oil.
Federal debt has increased 5.6% over the past years. This year, the total federal/provincial debt will total nearly $1.5 trillion. The stock markets have witnessed their greatest one-week loss since 2008. Oxford Economics estimates that COVID-19 might slash global domestic product.
Of countries with universal healthcare, Canada ranks 26th of 27 in acute hospital beds per thousand people. Oakville, Ontario infectious disease specialist Dr Neil Rau asserted, “I don’t think we have surge capacity.”
We may “dodge the bullet” of COVID-19, which has spread to 50 countries and claimed over 2,900 lives. But what of another pandemic? As Dr Tedros A. Ghebreyesus of the WHO cautioned, “We must ... take advantage of the opportunity that we have now.” Although Chief Medical Officer Dr Theresa Tam acknowledged that hospital capacity was a “critical aspect” of our preparedness for a coronavirus outbreak, seemingly no Canadian health ministers have heeded this advice.
Government revenues from energy are $14.1 billion annually – 11% of national GDP. If our oil and gas cannot reach world markets at fair prices, in order to provide for additional health funding, the choices are to go deeper in debt or raise sales/personal income taxes. Further tax hikes would not impact merely the “rich.”
We need extra health funding urgently to increase community care and expand acute hospital bed capacity. China built two acute-care hospitals totaling 2500 beds in about 10 days. If our political leaders could muster the will and find the money, could we not build new chronic care facilities across Canada? This would create jobs. And possibly much of the funding could come from our energy industry.
Canadians are apprehensive. When there is a breakdown of law and order and the real possibility of both a pandemic and a recession, we urgently need leadership.
Charles S. Shaver,