More than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus has inﬁltrated the highest levels of political leadership in countries such as Brazil, the U.K., and most recently, the United States with the infection of President Donald Trump, which came to light on Oct. 2.
The extent to which it has penetrated the upper echelons of the political sphere underlines the fact that the novel coronavirus is here to stay.
So far, Canada and our mining sector have beneﬁted from the relatively low case count in the country, which has made it much easier to continue business, albeit in a modiﬁed form.
But as of early October, there are concerning signs that Canada’s success in beating back the virus may not last. Rising case numbers, especially in Ontario and Quebec, have provincial governments threatening to re-impose restrictions on some businesses and activities.
While the mining sector’s status as an “essential” business across Canada is not likely to change, the industry won’t be left unscathed by a second and subsequent waves and the depressed economic growth that will follow.
In a recent survey conducted by The Northern Miner and Canadian Mining Journal, which saw 384 industry participants respond to questions in July and August, the top long-term concerns cited were the potential for long-term or permanent mine shutdowns (30.3%), the loss of skilled workers (24.2%), demand destruction (22.3%), and the long-term ability to raise money (20.3%).
So it’s not unreasonable to ask why, given that rising cases were entirely predictable as a consequence of businesses and schools started to reopen, governments were not better prepared?
It has been obvious for many months that we needed to vastly increase testing capacity, especially in Ontario and Quebec, where more than 60% of Canada’s population lives.
Meanwhile, the federal government has been slow to approve and adopt rapid testing methods for the virus that have been in use in the U.S. and other places for months, and which could be used to take the pressure off the backlog of highly accurate but slow PCR tests. We are behind the curve.
Missteps on the part of the federal and provincial governments only serve to feed an already growing lack of trust in governments and institutions. That’s not good. As much as I hate the ofﬁcial platitute of COVID-19 “We’re all in this together,” we need all levels of government to coordinate a coherent response to this virus.
The alternative – whole sectors of the economy that continue to be shut down and millions of people unable to earn a livelihood – will have dire physical and mental health consequences for far too many Canadians.
Perhaps our political leaders could learn something from the mining sector, which has had a lot of success in adapting to the virus because of its unrelenting culture of health and safety.
Something to think about as we head into fall and winter – and a cold and flu season that promises to be like no other.