An entitlement virus is sweeping through the ranks of Canada’s public officials — elected and non-elected — and causing them to act like idiots. There is no known cure. Public confidence in governmental leadership has been weakened already as a result.
From Quebec, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Edmonton come reports of members of Parliament, provincial ministers and provincial public officials flying off to distant destinations for their own personal reasons in defiance of the advice their governments are giving the public. They make fools of their governmental colleagues who issue the advice. They make fools of the conscientious citizens who follow it.
Manitoba MP Niki Ashton went to Greece to visit her ailing grandmother. Manitoba Senator Don Plett was in Mexico for three days beginning Dec. 28. David McLaughlin, Manitoba’s top civil servant, was neither vacationing nor visiting during his two weeks in Ontario, his official apologist said — he was at his family home in Ontario, working from home. A couple of Liberal MPs and a couple of Quebec legislature members hurried home when their foreign travels were disclosed.
A gaggle of Saskatchewan and Alberta ministers and government backbenchers had never been specifically ordered to stay home like everybody else, so they felt free to jet off to warm places such as Hawaii, Palm Springs, Phoenix and Mexico.
Front-runner in the idiocy stakes at the moment is Rod Phillips, who was finance minister of Ontario until his boss, Premier Doug Ford, found out that the Ontario public could not stomach the two-week beach vacation in St. Barts, which Mr. Phillips concealed by pre-recording Christmas greetings to his constituents, for broadcast in his absence. Mr. Ford at first accepted this escapade, then called the minister home and fired him when public reaction was unfavourable.
Canada is struggling with the second wave of a COVID-19 pandemic which has already claimed the lives of more than 15,000 Canadians. The virus is spreading rapidly in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec and continues to claim new victims in Manitoba and all other provinces. Prevalence of the virus is increased when people travel abroad and inadvertently bring the virus back with them on their return.
It’s hard enough to avoid picking up the virus while living quietly in Manitoba, receiving parcels at the door, and shopping for groceries. It’s harder still to avoid the virus when lining up in airports, boarding aircraft, mingling with strangers. That’s why the unanimous advice of the health authorities tells everyone to stay home as much as possible.
Public officials do great damage when they make their own rules and exempt themselves from the discipline they would apply to the rest of us.
Though vaccination has begun on a small scale, the pandemic still has a big future before it is defeated in Canada. Unusual public discipline and self-sacrifice will be needed through the winter and spring and probably through the summer to curb spread of the virus, reduce the risk of infection and ease the burden on nurses, doctors and health care aides.
In these circumstances, public officials do great damage when they make their own rules and exempt themselves from the discipline they would apply to the rest of us. Since they are so much smarter than the people they govern, they should know that already.
The entitlement virus, however, incubates so fast that smart people can soon take leave of their senses. Which drug-maker will come up with a vaccine for that disease?