Canada and the Provinces
by Ron Hartling
In March of 2020 when I began what evolved into this site, Canada was doing reasonably well at managing our first wave, far better than most of the countries to which I compared us. The federal government, after getting off to a dismayingly tardy start, provided good leadership and, especially, the innovative CERB programs which was rolling out at unprecedented speed. The provinces all fell into line with strong lockdowns which successfully suppressed that wave.
As months became years and the pandemic wore on, politics reared its ugly (and in this case deadly, given many thousands of avoidable deaths) head. Both the federal and, to differing degrees, provincial governments became increasingly sensitive to a growing public desire to the pandemic to be simply over, even it wasn’t, and began to prioritize opinion polls over preserving lives. The turning point came at the beginning of 2022 with the rapid spread of the less-deadly Omicron variants when provincial governments used temporarily-rising backlogs for definitive PCR testing as an excuse to restrict those tests to a fairly small minority of their residents. The backlogs were quickly eliminated but full testing wasn’t, thereby eliminating the politically inconvenient new-case counts previously reported by the media. Since that time, most Canadians have indeed succumbed to one or more COVID infections, but it has been easy to pretend that the pandemic is over.
Pandemic-related statistics are now increasingly sparse and tardy, which leaves Canadians without reliable information on the risks which they continue to face but can easily ignore. COVID continues to evolve but, apart from decent “herd immunity” from new infections by the currently-circulating strains which keep hospitalization and deaths down to mostly the aged, we are in many ways as unprepared for the inevitable emergence of a more deadly virus, be it COVID or some other, than we were in 2020.
PCR testing of municipal wastewater (sewage) currently serves as the most reliable and up-to-date indicator of rising and falling COVID infection rates. That is followed by PCR test positivity rates among the minority of Canadians who remain eligible. Hospitalization rates tend to follow those changes with a one-to-two-week delay. The final indicator is death rates, which would theoretically lag hospitalizations by several more weeks but are practice quite slow to be officially reported. As well, provinces differ in what they count as a COVID-related death. Canada’s “excess deaths” (the difference between total deaths and the number which would be statistically expected) are surprisingly large compared to other developed countries, leading some concerned statisticians to estimate that actual pandemic deaths could be at least two-thirds higher than the more than 50,000 reported.
The following charts, which we continue to update weekly, illustrate the most reliable of the still-available statistical data. Note that Ontario data, which remains more plentiful, is found under the Ontario menu item.