Grant Robertson, writing a few days ago in the Globe and Mail, said: “As a global pandemic began to take root in February, China held a series of backchannel conversations with Canada, lobbying the federal government to keep its borders open.“
The main point of Mr Robertson’s report is that successive Governments, Conservative and Liberal, starting with Stephen Harper in the wake of the global Great Recession, began to weaken Canada’s Global Public Health Intelligence Network, which is a small, relatively inexpensive (<$3 million) early warning system (known as GPHIN) that was once considered a cornerstone of Canada’s public health preparedness strategy. Initially, Prime Minister Harper moved “bean counters” into almost every corner of government, looking for savings so that he could balance the budget, Health Canada was not excluded. But the GPHIN has been scaled back further in recent years, with resources shifted into projects that didn’t involve outbreak surveillance, because the Liberals had different priorities.
In any event, he reports explains that “With the virus already taking a deadly toll in Asia, Heng Xiaojun, the Minister Counsellor for the Chinese embassy, requested a call with senior Transport Canada officials. Over the course of the conversation, the Chinese representatives communicated Beijing’s desire that flights between the two countries not be stopped because it was unnecessary … [and official notes taken from the call say that] .. “The Chinese position on the continuation of flights was reiterated … [and] … Mr. Heng conveyed that China is taking comprehensive measures to combat the coronavirus.”” So far, so good, it is normal for diplomats to call bureaucrats to make very specific cases for everything from trade deals to travel. It is what they are paid to do. There is nothing wrong here; the Chinese may have been lying about the “comprehensive measures” they were taking and the Canadians may have suspected that they were lying, but that’s all just part and parcel of diplomacy, too.
Mr Robertson says that “Canadian officials seemed to agree … [with the Chinese position] … since no steps were taken to restrict or prohibit travel. To the federal government, China appeared to have the situation under control and the risk to Canada was low. Before ending the call, Mr. Heng thanked Ottawa for its “science and fact-based approach” … [and] … Around the same time, with the death toll rising and the virus spreading internationally, preparations were made for a phone call between Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne and his Chinese counterpart. According to speaking notes prepared in advance of that discussion, Canada’s key messages were to “express sympathy” and to convey how “impressed” Ottawa was with “efforts deployed to contain the outbreak, and the transparent approach taken by China thus far.”” In other words, Grant Roberson says, “The government had “full confidence” in China’s ability to contain the virus.“
That was in February when Australia, having about the same evidence, we must assume, and almost certainly facing the same diplomatic pressure from China, made exactly the opposite choice: it closed its borders.
“It was a critical moment in the looming pandemic,‘ Mr Robertson writes, “but the Canadian government lacked the full picture … [as, I assert, did the Australian government] … instead relying heavily on what Beijing was choosing to disclose to the World Health Organization (WHO). Ottawa’s ability to independently know what was going on in China – on the ground and inside hospitals – had been greatly diminished in recent years.” I’m not sure that the Australians, Japanese, New Zealanders, Singaporeans or Taiwanese had much different or better information. What is, now, clear, with the benefit of hindsight, is that their governments made much better choices than did Justin Trudeau’s.
The question is: Why?
Australia is a country which is often compared to Canada: they are two rich, modern, Western, states with relatively small populations (25 Million Australians vs 37 Million Canadians) living in mostly big cities dotted across vast, often inhospitable landmasses …
… each is a federal state with a Westminster type of parliamentary government. The two governments, back in the opening months of 2020, reacted differently to what must have been similar pools of information …
… the difference, it seems to me, must be in leadership. Prime Minister Scott Morrison seems, to me, to have listened to his own officials who did not believe what was coming out of Beijing or from Geneva, where the (heavily influenced by China) WHO is based. Prime Minister Trudeau and his inner circle appear, for reasons we can only guess, to have believed both.
Is Prime Minister Trudeau stupid? No, I don’t think so. While I do not believe that he is either well-read or thoughtful (another character trait he shares with Donald Trump) and I doubt that he is any sort of deep thinker, he’s a not a stupid man. Is a he pawn in the hands of the Chinese? Again, No. I do no doubt for a second that he does admire China’s “basic dictatorship,” and wishes that he, too, could “turn the economy around on a dime,” but he’s not China’s puppet. The problem, I think, is that he is a puppet, and his strings are being pulled by two groups:
- First, by a (uncoordinated) cabal of very rich, very powerful and often very private Canadians who have business dealings with China and want Canada to steer a course that differs, quite dramatically, from that pursued by its major allies, including America, Australia, Britain and New Zealand; and
- Second, by a well coordinated group of Liberal Party insiders who care nothing about foreign policy. Their goal is, 100%, to gain and retain political power in Canada. They care only about each of Canada’s 338 parliamentary seats: they want to win a majority of them, election-after-election-after-election and they will tell their prime minister to kowtow to anyone and everyone who might help win a seat in, say, one of the Greater Vancouver or Greater Toronto suburbs.
It is the string pullers who tell ministers and officials to “go easy” on China … and Iran and several other states where it is feared that a firm, principled Canadian foreign policy might harm either private business or domestic political interests.
Even though Health Canada have failed, as Grant Robertson reported, above, Murray Brewster, reporting for CBC News, said (in April) that “A small, specialized unit within the Canadian military’s intelligence branch [the medical intelligence (MEDINT) cell within the Canadian Forces intelligence staff] … began producing detailed warnings and analysis about the emergence of the deadly novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China in early January … [and] … For at least one of the country’s leading intelligence experts, the fact that the unit was tracking the COVID-19 outbreak and reporting on it raises serious questions about information-sharing within the federal government — and its possible failure to heed early warning signs.” So, In January, according to Mr Brewster who is usually very well informed, the “reports certainly made it to the desk of Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, and likely were given to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan as well.” The use of the term “likely” suggests that Minister Sajjan’s staff was unwilling to admit (or deny) that they had the reports. I think it is inconceivable, given that everyone remembered SARS in 2003, that the military MEDINT reports were not flagged as URGENT and shared with the MND and the PCO and possibly even the PMO. Even if the Chief of the Defence Staff, the Deputy Minister and Minister Sajjan decided to not share the information, in my experience factual reports (even very SECRET and sensitive ones) are, routinely, shared between departments and agencies at the Assistant Deputy Minister, Director General and even Director (which is what I was) level.
I believe that there is one, simple, inescapable conclusion: in the opening weeks of 2020 Australian PM Scott Morrison and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau had, roughly, the same information about the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Morrison acted, quickly and decisively and Prime Minister Trudeau hesitated and prevaricated and called Canadians racists when they asked for measures similar, but tailored to our need for a fairly porous border with the USA. In short: Justin Trudeau Failed. It is only now, with the benefit of hindsight, that we can see the extent of his failure …
… this chart, taken just a couple of days ago from the authoritative Financial Times, shows the massive extent of Justin Trudeau’s monumental failure in terms of CPVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people in Canada versus Australia since 1 April 2020. Sadly, many hundreds of Australians (but less than 1,000) have died (out of 25 Million), but over 15,000 Canadians (from 37 Million) are dead because Justin Trudeau Failed.
I know that something like 20% of Canadians will never vote for any candidate who is not a Liberal; I respect your choice. But I ask all those people to consider how much damage Justin Trudeau has done, I ask you to remember that he has the blood of thousands and thousands of our fellow citizens on his hands, and I ask you tell the Liberal Party of Canada => that you will stay home in the next election unless the party of your choice dumps Trudeau.