Editorials - Dec. 17, 2020
The personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizer shortage was headline news back in March and April. There just wasn’t enough to go around, and so dozens of Canadian distillers scrambled to switch their equipment over to making sanitizer instead of spirits. They then donated the much-needed sanitizer to hospitals, emergency workers and other front-line services. As the pandemic wore on, some charged nominal amounts to cover costs, but many continued to donate to people in need.
CBC News is reporting that at the same time the federal government was calling for help from small Canadian companies, they were spending millions of dollars to bring in sanitizer from outside the country and purchasing from larger Canadian companies, all the while accepting donations from small craft distillers. Officials with various levels of government have expressed gratitude for how the industry stepped up to the plate, but no contracts or compensation have gone to the distillers.
As contracts for sanitizer continue to be necessary, wouldn’t it make sense to keep the business in Canada now that we are capable of producing it? Awarding contracts to some of these small companies that stepped up when we needed them would be the right thing to do instead of spending Canadian money abroad to solve the problem. – DS
A changing conversation
Last week, Margaret Keenan became the first person to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. A Canadian personal support worker shortly followed as the vaccine made its way to Canada and now additional doses of the vaccine are being rolled out all over the world.
Now the rush is on and countries are either reaping the benefits of the foresight of their leaders or stuck playing catch-up. Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump, for example, turned down additional vaccine inventory from Pfizer in the summer, only to sign a largely symbolic order last week that puts Americans at the front of the vaccination line. Here at home, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been accused of letting Canada fall behind other countries in the vaccine race, though companies have assured Canadians that is not the case.
Due to the enormity and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, effective vaccines are sure to be among the most sought-after medications we’ve ever seen. As a result, we’ll likely see an international food fight the likes of which we’ve never seen as countries seek to return to some semblance of normal. This will come regardless of how well they have managed the virus (with a country like the U.S. being akin to a lifelong alcoholic now begging for a liver transplant to fix the damage that’s been done – and now those in the White House will be among the first to get vaccinated after playing down the pandemic for months).
The medical and scientific communities should be congratulated on fast tracking a process that traditionally takes much longer, but if vaccine availability shows us anything, it’s that consolidated international effort and resources can show astounding results. Now things get complicated with governments having to convince some to take it, while employing extreme security measures to keep others from skipping the line.
Those who make a living wearing white coats have done something amazing for the world, but now the conversation becomes who will get the vaccine, who is willing to take it and if they’ll get it in time. – SL
Handouts and payouts
While some companies have done their best to operate ethically throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, taking only what they need from government programs to keep their heads above water, others have taken advantage, leaving some to question the necessity and implementation of support the federal and provincial governments are providing.
Take, for example, Extendicare Inc. and Sienna Senior Living Inc., long-term care operators who received $157 million in COVID-19 aid then turned around and paid half that much to their shareholders.
The companies claim the funds went towards COVID-19 spending but, between the two organizations, approximately 480 COVID-19 deaths have occurred in Ontario centres they operate. That’s 12 per cent of all of Ontario’s COVID-19 related deaths.
Families claim that the centres’ care has deteriorated during the pandemic, which, when paired with the combined $74 million given to shareholders, leads to questions of integrity. For their part, the companies have said they’re having trouble finding staff this year, but the argument could be made that taking even half that $74 million and funneling it into staffing costs could easily help either find or train the required staff.
While most companies are still held accountable to their shareholders and do exist to make them money, any company that focuses on caring for the most vulnerable sectors of our community shouldn’t be posting those kinds of dividends while losing hundreds of patients.
If ever there was a year when lower dividends, keeping a company afloat, are acceptable, 2020 is it. – JDS