No Profit in Preparing for Disaster


It’s pretty obvious when a politician is milking a situation for all the political power he can wrest out of it. Like Erin O’Toole standing up during Question Period and self-righteously demanding that the Prime Minister give Canadians what we all want and cannot have: a date when we can get a COVID inoculation. The genius political argument that O’Toole derives from this is, “Why doesn’t Canada have a vaccine-producing capability of its own?”

Let Me Tell You a Story…

Once upon a time, Canada had a research program that could respond to health problems by creating new cures for diseases. Now, when we really need it, we don’t have that program anymore. Why not? Well, Brian Mulroney’s Conservatives privatized it. And guess what happened next?

Private vs Public Enterprise

I have perhaps belaboured the point in earlier posts, but there are some areas of human activity that should be accomplished by business, and other areas that should be under the control of government, and heaven help the country that gets it wrong. The COVID pandemic has revealed to us one more area where Free Enterprise cannot be counted on to fulfill society’s needs. There’s simply not enough profit in scientific research, especially in the medical field. So if we depend on for-profit businesses to keep a research capacity ready for any emergency, they won’t.

So We Didn’t

The Conservative Party gave the job to their friends in the business world. The businessmen couldn’t make any money at it, so they shut it down. You want irony? The only Canadian contender for a COVID 19 vaccine is a process that uses tobacco. It’s being funded partially by the Phillip Morris Company.

On the Global Scale

If you want more on the situation, here’s an article by Noam Chomsky that pretty well sums up what’s happening to health care in the economic and political world.

He quotes the New York Times: “The stalled efforts to create a new class of cheap, easy-to-use ventilators highlight the perils of outsourcing projects with critical public-health implications to private companies; their focus on maximizing profits is not always consistent with the government’s goal of preparing for a future crisis.”

This article was obviously written during the “ventilator shortage” phase of the pandemic, but the ideas flow right down to the “vaccine shortage” of today.

Back to Normal

We won’t be going back to normal any time soon. This could be a good thing because the old normal was what caused the problem in the first place. Hopefully the new normal will include government sponsorship of preparedness programs.

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