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REDMAN & THAKUR: One year of living on the edge with COVID-19

“After a year’s experience of COVID-19 worldwide, the continuing hold of discredited mathematical models regarding lockdowns remain. As well, it is increasingly evident that medical specialists put in charge of public policy ignored existing pandemic preparedness plans, for better or worse.”




Guest column from David Redman and Ramesh Thakur

On 18 February, SKY News UK trumpeted: “Lockdown is working! COVID-19 infection rate plummets in England.” Yet, as Figure 1 shows, voluntary social distancing in Sweden resulted in an earlier and faster decline of COVID-19 deaths per capita. Another interesting feature of the chart is how the curves are policy-invariant, mimicking one another regardless of policy interventions between the various countries. The virus infection, hospitalisation, and mortality curves seem to rise and fall by seasons independently of lockdowns.

Figure 1: The UK, EU, and Sweden

A year ago, Western countries began adopting lockdown policies. To mark the anniversary, we would like to raise four analytical puzzles. The first is why abstract models have proven so seductive. On 13 February, the sober and responsible Economist magazine said “the pandemic threatened to take more than 150 million lives.” It gave no source or explanation for this Spanish Flu-like estimate. Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London (ICL) has a notorious track record of catastrophic predictions out by orders of magnitude on foot and mouth diseasemad cow diseasebird flu, and swine flu. The ICL model of 16 March 2020 on COVID-19 and others copying its methodology too proved wildly inaccurate on both worst and best case estimates of COVID-19 deaths with respect to the UK, US, Sweden, and even Australia. As well, on 19 February, Canadian health officials couldn’t explain to a parliamentary health committee the basis for modelling-based forecasts from chief health officer Dr Theresa Tam that showed a rocket lift-off-like vertical trajectory (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Canada’s Rocket Model

The second is why countries have persisted with a policy whose many harms are far easier to demonstrate than benefits. If lockdowns worked, Sweden would have a higher death rate than the worst-hit European countries, and Florida would be far worse off than locked-down California, New York, and many more states. Data indicates the opposite. On 11 February, Governor Ron DeSantis pointed out that since December, Florida ranked 28th among US states on cases, 38th on hospitalisations, and 42ndon deaths per capita. In an MSNBC interview on 17 February, President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt visibly struggled to explain comparable outcomes for lockdown California and no-lockdown Florida, stating “that’s just a little beyond our explanation.”

Governments are prone to use the worst-performing countries as benchmarks to pat their own backs. Thus, Canada’s 570 COVID-19 deaths per million (DPM) compares very favourably to the 1,535 DPM in the US, but Canada is 80 per cent above the world average of 317 DPM, and significantly worse than many Asian countries (Figure 3). Australia’s 35 DPM is spectacular in comparison to the tolls in Europe and the Americas, but in the mid-range of the Asia-Pacific statistics (Figure 4).

Figure 3: Canada in Global Perspective

Figure 4: Australia in Global and Regional Perspective

Despite a rudimentary public health infrastructure, multigenerational shared accommodation in congested conditions, and a vast migrant labour population returning from India, Nepal’s infection and mortality rates fell sharply, to the puzzlement of public health experts. India’s low COVID-19 mortality rate and falling infections are a similar puzzle. In December, Politico ran a headline demonstrating similar confusion, writing “Locked-down California runs out of reasons for surprising surge.” Experts are similarly baffled by the failure of any post-holiday surge in Iowa despite dire predictions.

Against barely discernible benefits, the immediate and lasting harms of lockdowns to health, mental health, livelihoods, and social life are immense. A peer-reviewed article in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation by researchers from Stanford University showed that net harms exceed net gainsbetween highly and less restrictive interventions. In the UK, 3 million people missed cancer screeningsand heart attacks, Accident and Emergency attendance dropped by 50 percent, and almost half of the 220,000 deaths were from non-COVID-19 causes, such as cancelled operations. In Canada too, lockdowns have caused massive mental health, societal health, educational, economic, and even public health damage, including deaths from other severe diseases because people are either turned away from hospitals focussed on COVID-19, or are too frightened to go to the hospital.

Australia’s former foreign minister, Alexander Downer, described elimination as a “strategy that will never work,” articulating that its pursuit would be “the greatest danger for Australia” that will “cause the collapse of the economy, massive social dislocation, depression, educational setbacks, and the collapse of small businesses.” No government should ever again have the power to shut down our lives, businesses, culture, and liberties.

Third, one explanation for the failure to control the pandemic could be that doctors have been delegated authority to make policy decisions that should have been tasked instead to emergency management experts, with input from public health specialists within their domain of expertise. A pandemic is not a public health emergency, it’s a public emergency. It affects every aspect of life: the public sector, private sector, every citizen. Every Canadian province has an Emergency Management Organization that scans across all sectors of the economy daily, looking for hazards that are going to impact them, making sure critical infrastructure is operating, and giving governments the tools needed to ensure the stability of their jurisdiction. They have been pushed aside by chief health officers who are not trained in any of this. As non-medics would be barred from hospital operating theatres, why then do we expect good outcomes from health professionals with no expertise and experience in emergency management planning and execution of operational plans?

Fourth, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was correct in his observation last April that lockdowns have no “historical scientific basis.” The scepticism towards harsh mitigation measures was stated by the WHO in 20062019, and again last December. National pandemic preparedness plans reflected the prevailing scientific and policy consensus. East Asian countries have had significantly lower COVID-19 death tolls and collateral damage to livelihoods and lifestyles because their pandemic plans were swiftly activated against COVID-19. By contrast, having reaffirmed in February 2020 its existing pandemic preparedness plan that had been drawn up in 2011, the UK abandoned any plan in March. Canada too had well-defined plans based on the hard lessons learned from previous pandemics. These were all discarded.

Going forward, the key question is what the acceptable level of mortality risk, relative to the damage to health, mental health, society, economy, and disadvantaged groups like migrants and the poor from lockdowns is. Instead of fear-driven hysteria, governments should emphasise balance and proportionality and project calm, competence, and composure. COVID-19 is now endemic and will keep circulating, returning (especially in winters), and mutating. We cannot endlessly repeat lockdown cycles. The overall goal should be risk management, not risk avoidance, denial, or eradication. We must break the cycle of fear with a clear plan that people can understand and support.

David Redman is a retired Canadian Army Lt. Col and a former head of Emergency Management Alberta. 

Ramesh Thakur is a former UN Assistant Secretary-General and a Canadian as well as Australian citizen, is emeritus professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University.


SLOBODIAN: Manitoba response to Freedom Convoy has politicians cowering

“Truckers rolling down the highways — determined heroes in thousands of rigs, trucks, and cars — have unleashed a righteous beast in Canadians fed up with bullies messing with their freedoms and livelihoods and treating the unvaccinated as second-class lepers.”




Federal politicians and bureaucrats will probably be hiding in their closets or under their desks, frozen in fear, when the massive Freedom Convoy arrives in Ottawa.

And they should hide in shame until they get it straight — that they were elected to carry out the will of the people; that it’s long past time to start listening.

Maybe a crescendo of blaring horns in the capital will improve their hearing.

They’ve created a big COVID-19 mess, underestimated the Canadians they’ve tormented and tried to crush, pulled cheap stunts, and delivered fancy, empty condescending lectures.

Few are listening to them anymore. Truckers have taken the wheel and won the trust and respect and hearts and minds of countless Canadians who oppose vaccine mandates and freedom of speech being trampled on. 

Elected pooh-bahs who’ve lost any esteem they may have had just don’t know what to do about that. 

Truckers rolling down the highways — determined heroes in thousands of rigs, trucks, and cars — have unleashed a righteous beast in Canadians fed up with bullies messing with their freedoms and livelihoods and treating the unvaccinated as second-class lepers.

That’s why hundreds of freezing supporters braved -30C temperatures to greet the convoy when it blared into Brandon, Man., population 60,000, around noon Tuesday.

A driver going the other way told the Western Standard the convoy was 100 km long.

It was a magnificent, electric scene that has, and will continue to repeat itself along highways, roads and overpasses in towns and cities across Canada until convoys coming from several directions converge on the capital January 29.

The cheering Brandon supporters didn’t come empty-handed. They brought more than 1,000 bagged lunches — sandwiches, homemade cookies, muffins, puffed wheat cakes — prepared in kitchens throughout the province. 

Someone even very thoughtfully hauled in porta-potties.

These regular Canadians don’t have much use for most politicians (Of course, Carlton MP Pierre Poilievre is an exception).

But Canadians love, love, love the truckers!

“People have been dropping food and drinks off all morning,” said Virden’s Ingrid Wilkinson, who organized the bagged lunches served at several stations.

“I’m doing it for all the harm that’s been caused. I personally know many people who have been greatly harmed. I’m doing this for our parents who had to live through Nazi occupation. Thankfully, they’re not in this world now. I do it for the kids, their future,” said Wilkinson.

“This is not sustainable. It’s a big lie.”

Virden menu for truckers

The Virden group had $825 left over from money raised to buy food to donate it to the trucker’s GoFundMe which stands at $4.6 million and counting. This amazing feat was accomplished in just 10 days.

About 193 km away in Headingley, more food and support awaited the convoy where Hutterite communities prepared for the arrival of the “dear” truckers.

“We are setting up kitchens n gonna feed you all. We are with you, and we fully support this massive convoy for freedom,” tweeted Paul Kleinsasser. “May God protect you on your journey, keep on going, we are praying for you. God bless.”

The convoy was expected to arrive in Winnipeg a few hours later.

The truckers oppose the cross-border vaccine mandates that severely impact their livelihoods.

The truckers also oppose vaccine mandates inflicted on everyone else — nurses, police, military, worshipers, children, students — everyone. 

Canadians embrace and are emboldened by their courage and stamina. 

So yes, they are well fed, dearly loved, and, it appears, to be shunned by most politicians.

However, Conservative MPs Andrew Scheer and Warrant Steinley did show up to greet the convoy in Regina Monday night.

Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen blasted the Liberal government and threw her support behind truckers.

“I support peaceful demonstrations against these mandates, and our truckers from Portage-Lisgar and from across Canada,” the Portage-Lisgar MP tweeted Tuesday.

Bergen said Trudeau “dealt our crumbling supply chain another blow” when he implemented mandates making 26,000 truckers unable to transport of goods across the Canada-U.S. border “which will only drive inflation higher than it’s been in over 30 years.

“Conservatives have been opposed to federal mandated vaccines since Trudeau introduced them: and we oppose the mandatory vaccine on Canadian truckers.”

Bergen noted that truckers bring much-needed supplies to Canada and “worked tirelessly over the pandemic” to keep supplies moving.

“Hamstringing this essential industry is nothing more than a political move to further divide Canadians.”

As for the main event in Ottawa, count on People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier to be there.

But hell will freeze over before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finds the courage or respect to greet the convoy that speaks for a huge segment of the country.

Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole repeatedly dodged questions Monday about whether he supports the truckers offering a wishy-washy non-committal word salad. So no, he’ll be absent. Lord help the Conservative party while he’s at the helm.

Let these two ‘leaders’ hide in the closet from the big rigs, blaring horns, and burly truckers headed their way.

Time has passed for them to speak. Nobody cares about what they have to say anymore.

The people have spoken. 

It’s time for the politicians and unelected bureaucrats to listen.

And with every blaring horn, the message gets stronger and clearer: Enough!

Exciting times.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard

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SELICK: Ontario’s health minister should get a second opinion

“In normal times, doctors frequently disagree with one another. That’s why patients often do seek out second opinions. “




Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott is apparently unfamiliar with the concept of getting a second opinion from a different doctor when the first doctor’s advice doesn’t seem to be producing the desired results.

In a widely publicized speech she made on January 19, Elliott said: “I want to respond to some extremely concerning reports that some doctors are spreading misinformation about vaccines. At a time when it’s never been more important for Ontarians to have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, this [dissenting advice] is unacceptable. I will be sending a letter to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) urging them to do everything that is possible to put an end to this behaviour. They should consider all options in doing so, including reviewing the licenses of physicians found to be spreading misinformation.”

It is certainly true that some Ontario doctors have departed from the “must-vaccinate” narrative of the majority and the CPSO. However, it is not a mere handful that are creating such stress for the health minister. Forty MDs were already under investigation by the CPSO before Ms. Elliott expressed her wish for an even broader witch hunt.

There are many other dissenters that the CPSO has not yet targeted. For instance, a group calling itself Canadian Physicians for Science and Truth posted a declaration on May 9, 2021 responding to the CPSO’s April 30th threat to impose disciplinary action on any physician who questions or debates COVID-19 orthodoxy. The declaration has garnered 718 signatures from healthcare professionals (many of whom have shown their credentials as “MD”), as well as 20,171 signatures from ordinary citizens. Those signing the declaration accuse the CPSO of ordering physicians to depart from the scientific method by shying away from debate on scientific subjects.

Another group, the Canadian Covid Care Alliance, is more protective of the identities of its members but indicates that it is an “alliance of over 500 independent Canadian doctors, scientists, and health care providers…committed to providing quality, balanced, evidence-based information to the Canadian public about COVID-19 so that hospitalizations can be reduced, lives saved, and our country safely restored to normal as quickly as possible.”

Health Minister Elliott must surely share those goals, so why has she moved so pre-emptively and harshly to demonize a contingent of her fellow travelers? She herself is not a doctor or scientist, and not independently qualified to determine which group of doctors really does have an accurate view of the facts.

Rational people – when faced with a choice between two opposing scientific opinions – examine both of them closely and give due consideration to the viewpoints of all the people more highly credentialed than themselves. They don’t behave like Ms. Elliott did – pretending to know that one group is wrong while the other has a monopoly on truth.

In normal times, doctors frequently disagree with one another. That’s why patients often do seek out second opinions. Sometimes the second doctor, or even the third or fourth, has a more satisfactory answer than the first did.

Ms. Elliott must surely realize by now that the experts she has been relying on for the past two years have not served the people of Ontario well. It’s high time she abandoned her arrogant attitude towards those who are offering a different opinion and started listening to them instead of threatening them with the loss of their livelihoods.

Karen Selick is a columnist for the Western Standard

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WAGNER: The benefits of a federal Western independence party

“As long as Albertans continue to vote Conservative federally, Justin Trudeau knows that he has nothing to worry about.”




For Alberta to become independent, there must be a provincial referendum on independence that receives a clear majority vote. For the referendum to take place, there must be a party in power willing to hold one. That requires the election of a provincial political party that favours asking Albertans whether they want to remain in Canada or choose a path towards self-determination and prosperity. The need for a provincial independence party is clear and easy to understand.

But some people ask: what about a federal Western independence party? What would be the point of that? It could neither mandate the necessary referendum nor pass federal legislation benefiting the West. Such a party therefore seems pointless, they suggest.

However, there are some clear benefits to a federal political party that should be considered.

For one thing, a federal Western independence party gives pro-independence voters an option besides the pro-federalist parties currently on offer. Patriotic Alberta voters who reject the Central Canadian parties would at least have someone they can conscientiously support. They could “vote their values,” so to speak, and send a message to Ottawa that voting for other parties doesn’t accomplish.

Right now, many independence-minded Albertans support Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party. The People’s Party has a unique and beneficial message that is attractive to conservative-minded Westerners, so that’s understandable. Bernier’s opposition to the Paris Climate Accord would mean that a Peoples’ Party federal government would eliminate the kinds of policies that prevent Western freedom and prosperity.

That is excellent, of course. However, because the People’s Party doesn’t restrict its focus to Western interests, it can’t represent the West in the same way that an exclusively Western party could. This is not to disparage the People’s Party, but simply to note that as a pan-Canadian party it must represent the interests of every region in the country, not just the West.

Having a federal independence party – such as the Maverick Party – does more than simply provide an option for Western regionalist voters. If it were to win a substantial number of votes (whether in a by-election or general election), that would alert Central Canadians to the increasing anger towards Ottawa in the West. 

As long as Albertans continue to vote Conservative federally, Justin Trudeau knows he has nothing to worry about. Conservative MPs from Alberta undoubtedly sympathize with the plight of the West, but their options to help are severely constrained by the need to appeal to voters in places like Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. The Conservative Party wants more than anything to achieve power, and the path to power runs through Central Canada. Thus, the interests of Alberta will always be a very low priority for the Conservative Party.

In contrast, were one or more Western independence MPs to be elected, Trudeau would see the West was not just going to lie down and let him run us over. He might finally understand that his anti-oil industry policies would be met by stiff resistance and that he was in for a real fight.

Most importantly of all, though, is that the election of one or more Maverick Party MPs would provide a significant morale boost for the entire Western independence movement. There would be lots of excitement that would lead to increased support, even at the provincial level.

There’s something about an electoral victory that generates credibility, even if power is not attained by the victor. That is, even though Maverick MPs would not form government or exercise power, the fact that they received voter support would provide credibility for the independence movement as a whole. In this kind of situation, quality leaders would likely emerge who could take the movement forward.

Some people point out that there have been Bloc Québécois MPs in Ottawa for years and they have done little for Quebec. Therefore, Maverick MPs from Alberta would be just as pointless.

However, everyone expects Quebec to send separatist MPs to Ottawa. They’ve been doing that for decades. Alberta sending independence-minded MPs to Ottawa would be entirely different. The election of Maverick MPs would constitute a political earthquake that would rock the nation. It would be the Canadian news story of the decade, and it would generate new interest and energy in the Western independence movement.

In short, a federal political party could potentially play a meaningful role in the move towards Alberta independence. A federal party is not as essential as a provincial party for the independence movement to succeed, but the potential benefits it could provide should not be overlooked.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

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