The case for mandatory mask-wearing in Canada

Opinion: Countries that adopted universal masking saw their mortality rates go down within a couple of weeks. That should be all the proof we need. The post The case for mandatory mask-wearing in Canada appeared first on

The case for mandatory mask-wearing in Canada

 Dr. Joe Vipond is an emergency room physician, and a clinical assistant professor at the University of Calgary.  

As the death statistics continue to grow higher in Canada and around the world, there are corners where the curve has been flattened immensely. And the thing those jurisdictions have in common is universal mandatory masking.

An amazing but little-discussed fact: no country which has imposed mandatory masking has been overwhelmed by the pandemic. Moreover, in Asian countries, that policy has  than the lengthy lockdowns imposed by Western nations.

But there has been great resistance outside of Asia to making non-medical, homemade masks mandatory, with no end of excuses why requiring face-coverings for all people in public settings couldn’t possibly work here. “ (non-Asians would just never accept masks). Or “there is no possible way we could teach people to wear them safely” (despite the fact that we seem to successfully be able to teach people to drive cars). Or “the evidence is weak” (when in fact every day). Masks, we are told, are no substitute for physical distancing (although plenty of countries have instituted physical distancing without successfully bending the curve).

RELATED: Why that about-face on wearing masks is a problem

In the last few weeks, our public health officials have started to become more receptive to the idea that masks may play a role in the pandemic, with first the . recommending them for public settings where distancing is difficult, then Dr. Theresa Tam and the  endorsing mask-wearing on a voluntary basis.

This change has come as a result of the increasing concern  It is now evident that transmission is occurring in no small part from people who feel completely normal. As such, it has become necessary for everyone to treat everyone as if they are infected.

And although the safest place for individuals to be is in their own home, not exposing themselves to others, that is not an option for many, who cannot avoid leaving their houses for essential work, or the occasional grocery run. So masking, in addition to physical distancing and copious hand hygiene, would assist in preventing covid transmission for these individuals.

And indeed, masks are becoming more evident on the streets of Canada. But far from everybody is wearing them.

Now, however, a population-level experiment on public health is unfolding in central Europe. In the Czech Republic,  was launched in mid-March to convince the entire population to wear masks. On March 19 it became mandatory for all citizens to wear masks outside the home. This is the first non-Asian country to enact such a policy, and it allows a  between nations.

Twenty-three days later— it takes for someone to go from being infected with COVID-19 to dying from the disease, on average—those masks should have reduced the mortality rate in the Czech Republic. And, sure enough, the three-day average mortality rate started going down after April 9, and is now precipitously dropping.

This is powerful evidence that masking works. And we may soon have similar evidence from the Czechs’ neighbours in Austria. That country made masking mandatory on March 30 and is already seeing their mortality curve bending downward. Another neighbour, Poland, was slower to implement such rules, instituting a mandatory policy on April 16. It shows no similar bend—yet.

Notably, Austria and the Czech Republic have now. And it is likely that even as other restrictions are removed, masking will remain for a long, long time.

There is no more important policy at this moment than one that prevents needless deaths. While non-medical, homemade masks are becoming more common around Canada, we have the evidence we need that making them mandatory saves lives. #Masks4allCanadians.


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The case for accountability, brought to you by the Conservatives

Andrew MacDougall: While the PM offers talking points from his driveway, the onus is on the opposition to make the case for proper scrutiny via Parliament The post The case for accountability, brought to you by the Conservatives appeared first on

The case for accountability, brought to you by the Conservatives

Say this for the coronavirus: it leads to some pretty bizarre outcomes.

No, not the frantic and extraordinary reworking of Canada’s benefit system, or the mass public acceptance of stringent lockdown measures. That’s just the cost of doing the virus’s business. I’m talking about cats becoming dogs and dogs becoming cats.

Exhibit A: the importance of Parliament—and the scrutiny it provides—in Canadian public life.

If anyone had told you a few years ago the Conservative Party of Canada would be leading the charge for accountability via the House of Commons and the Liberals resisting it, you would have been kicked out of the club and told to stop drinking. Sure, the Conservatives are now the opposition, but overtly championing the role of Parliament in applying scrutiny? Actively singing Parliament’s praises? What’s next? The Liberals pledging to report back to Parliament quarterly on Canada’s Quarantine Action Plan and having Mike Duffy MC the first event?

And yet, here we are, relying on the Conservatives to champion the job everybody should want doing. With the Liberal government stretching the national balance sheet across the gaping cracks in the economy and weaving entire closets full of new policy on the fly, it’s Conservatives who are having to make the case over why Parliament should have a look over any of it. And until recently, it’s been the Liberal Party offering scrutiny’s excuses.

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In one sense that’s understandable, what with the first Liberal bill combatting the pandemic containing an egregious bit of overreach. And then there was the thing the Liberals said the bill did that it didn’t do that Parliament then had to fix. Scrutiny often finds you with your trousers down and the Liberals would probably just rather get on with the business of throwing the kitchen sink at the economy. But that’s not really how this whole democracy thing works. Somebody has to mark the homework and Parliament should be all over this government’s response.

And given the volume of action being taken—and the huge sums involved—you’d think it would call for more scrutiny, not less, and the sooner the better. But as the past few days have proven, that’s far from a universal view, even if we now appear to have settled for 20 per cent in-person scrutiny via once-a-week sittings (with some virtual players to be named later).

Part of the resistance stems from the fact that Andrew Scheer hasn’t been the best advocate for his cause. And sure, the whole ‘we love Parliament’ routine might be a bit of opportunism, but since when is the onus on the opposition to prove why the government needs some kind of scrutiny? And since when do the media not absolutely tear into the government for playing hard to scrutinize?

To be sure, there is a public health emergency and we have to be careful about how Parliament operates. And yes, there was agreement weeks ago about a parliamentary holiday. But as the crisis unfolds it’s clear the world is going to be in a state of suspended animation for quite some time and so necessity is going to have to find a way to invent some proper scrutiny to cover off this extraordinary period in our lives. If other industries and institutions can find ways to operate during COVID-19 then Parliament can too, and it needn’t take weeks, or an opposition sh-t-fit, to make it happen.

Lest anyone forget, Justin Trudeau was first elected (in part) because he was in love with Parliament and accountability. Go back and read the 2015 platform; it’s stirring stuff. But now the great man deems it necessary only to roll from his living room to his driveway once a day to deliver scripted talking points peppered with partisan attacks in response to some questions from the press and we’re supposed to be okay with it? My, how we’ve let ourselves go.

And if you think that’s harsh, have a read of the Trudeau transcripts and tell me the last time the Prime Minister genuinely added value to the proceedings (or made news, for that matter). The early briefings might have been reassuringly meaty, but the Prime Minister has now gone full vegan, serving up one nothingburger after another, rarely adding anything to the press release he’s been sent out to read. It’s time for a different kind of accountability.

Because hundreds of billions are at stake, to say nothing of lives and future indebtedness. If Chrystia Freeland and public health officials can rock up to work together to face the press, then the Prime Minister can join her in taking a few bullets from their honourable colleagues in the House, i.e. the way our system was designed to hold them to account.

If the Conservatives are smart—bear with me—they’ll use this period to do a proper grown-up job of holding the government accountable. In other words, none of the usual shenanigans or rhetorical overreach. No memes or snarky asides. Scheer’s office should instead re-watch footage of Thomas Mulcair holding Stephen Harper to account over the Senate expenses scandal and use that as the benchmark.

It’s asking a lot, I know, but we’re now in the age of asking a lot, no matter how bizarre it seems.


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