Judging by my social media feed, people are starting to go a little crazy in isolation—mostly in good, productive, and humourous ways, but it's early days still with potentially months to go. Most people are clearly looking forward to the happy day when "flattening the curve" gets a relaunch as sexual innuendo.
As for myself, I'm ashamed to admit that the current level of physical distancing and isolation really isn't all that different from my day-to-day life. In fact, you could say that I've been prepping for something like this my entire life.
I've always saved three months of wages, because that's what I was told to do in case I ever lost my job. I've always stocked up on non-perishable food because we live in an earthquake/forest fire/rockslide zone and that's what was recommended. I have easily a dozen solo hobbies that I can happily use to fill every single moment of every single day. The real trick is to get me to put those things down long enough to engage with the real world.
There are books, movies, TV shows, video games, etc. that I can enjoy over and over and will never get tired of. I also do a lot of things on my own most of the time, like run, snowboard and mountain bike—not because I'm a loner, but because I generally suck at them and don't like to hold faster, better people up.
There have never been enough hours in the day for me to do the things I like to do. That's still the case even with the outside world on temporary shutdown.
But while I feel mostly prepared for this pandemic, it really bothers me that our governments were not.
COVID-19 started showing up more than three months ago and yet we're still scrambling to order the surgical masks, ventilators and other things we need to combat the spread of the virus and treat the afflicted. Hospitals should not be having shortages and buying supplies from resellers on Amazon.
Given that the U.S. is taking a predictable "America first" approach to things like masks and respirators, it seems ridiculous to depend on other countries to send us the necessary things we should have the capacity to make for ourselves in a crisis.
Then there are the insane costs we're about to take on as a nation—probably a couple hundred billion dollars when all is said and done, which will bring us closer to a trillion dollars in total debt obligations. That's more than $24,000 for every man, woman and child in Canada, not including our combined provincial debts.
I fully agree that money needs to be spent right now, but I will never understand why we don't have any money set aside for emergencies—or why we added $85 billion to our debt over the last five years in a so-called "bull" economy.
There are people who will argue that debt doesn't matter, but I tend to listen to the economists who disagree. Your nation's debt level determines the rate of interest we pay, which determines how much money government has left over to spend on programs. Debt also reduces funding for innovation and growth and drives down the value of our dollar, making it more expensive to import things like masks and respirators. It also reduces our capacity to respond at times like this.
The Government of Canada pays around $27 billion a year in interest on our debt, roughly a quarter of which goes to foreign investors. That money could buy a lot of medical supplies and help a lot of struggling businesses and out-of-work individuals right now.
A lot of countries are in the red, so we're definitely not alone or the worst. But there are also countries in far better shape than Canada when it comes to weathering emergencies. Take Norway, for example. They've built up a trillion-dollar wealth fund that was generated almost entirely by oil revenues—something Canada and Alberta has but failed to properly capitalize on before the prices slumped. Given our current situation, I'd rather we did things more like Norway.
If nothing else comes out of this crisis, I really hope that Canadians wake up to the fact that a country is a shared enterprise and obligation that we all have a stake in. Our values are being sorely tested, and so far, we're passing with flying colours. We have hospitals, trained medical personnel, subsidized universities to train said personnel, programs for workers and businesses to stay afloat, subsidies to keep industries and jobs alive for when things turn around—everything an advanced nation should have. We just don't want to pay for them with higher taxes, which has to change.
Globalism clearly fails in an emergency situation. Failing to acknowledge that and to talk about things like taxation, debt levels and our level of self-sufficiency would be a lost opportunity.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
And I feel fine.