Sad to see 2020 go?
You’re in the minority … of one. Everyone else was quite ecstatic to roll out the welcome mat for 2021.
The biggest issue we faced in 2020 was obviously the coronavirus pandemic. More than 85 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 worldwide, leading to nearly 1.85 million deaths as of Jan. 4. The number of suspected cases could be around 10 per cent of the global population, according to the World Health Organization.
With COVID-19 vaccines now available from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, a significant chunk of society will be protected. (It remains to be seen whether these vaccines will provide proper protection against the new variant identified in the United Kingdom in late December.) There’s still much work to be done and billions of people to tend to.
As well, vaccination doesn’t mean the end of COVID-19.
Some individuals won’t take the vaccines. Herd immunity has to be achieved on a global scale and that could take two to three more years. People will continue to wear masks, wash their hands, and remain cautious in public spaces and densely-populated areas.
Nevertheless, the light at the tunnel is visible. We can all be thankful for this.
COVID-19 will remain an issue during most of 2021. This means we have to remain vigilant, act responsibly and keep our families, friends and communities as safe and healthy as possible.
Some elected officials, meanwhile, need to start using more common sense when it comes to non-essential travel. Which is to say: don’t do it.
Progressive Conservative MPP Rod Phillips lost his role as Ontario Finance minister because he went on vacation to St. Barts in December – and set up videos beforehand to be released during Christmas to give the impression he was still at home.
Two Liberal MPs, Sameer Zuberi and Kamal Khera (who was parliamentary secretary to the International Development minister), lost their government roles and House of Commons duties by travelling to the U.S. in late December.
NDP MP Niki Ashton lost her critic roles when she visited her sick grandmother in Greece after Christmas and didn’t tell senior leadership of her plans.
Did they need to go on vacation when most Canadians have followed the rules and stayed home? Did they not realize how ridiculous their excuses would appear to their own constituents, including Conservative MP Ron Liepert’s two trips to California to deal with “essential home maintenance?”
When most Canadians can’t visit their ill parents and grandparents at home or abroad, why would any politician believe that taking an international trip to visit a relative, and not telling anyone about it, would be viewed as acceptable?
These Canadian politicians (and several others) hurt their public images and/or lost positions because they couldn’t stay at home during a health pandemic. They all made serious errors in judgment and will have to work very hard to regain the trust of voters.
Another politician who will have a difficult task in 2021, albeit for different reasons, will be U.S. president-elect Joe Biden.
The U.S. was hit hard by COVID-19 during President Donald Trump’s tenure. More than 20.7 million confirmed cases last year (roughly a quarter of the global tally) and over 351,000 recorded deaths (about a fifth of the global tally). While most Americans have recovered, like others around the world, COVID-19 was that nation’s third-largest cause of death in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer.
While there’s no question Trump made serious errors handling the pandemic, other aspects were successful. In particular, the public-private partnership Operation Warp Speed was able to release two COVID-19 vaccines before the end of 2020. If Trump runs again in 2024, that’s an initiative he can always point out.
When Biden becomes president on Jan. 20 – unless something extremely unusual happens when the electoral college is officially counted in Congress this week – the onus will be on him and his team to wade through the second year of COVID-19. Will a change in leadership have any effect? Will his 100-day mask policy be accepted or rejected?
All of this remains to be seen.
Plus, another huge wave of national lockdowns is occurring in Europe – including Monday’s announcement by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Spikes in COVID-19 are also occurring throughout Asia and Africa.
There’s also that little matter of getting the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines circulated on a much wider scale in Canada. Right, Prime Minister?
It’s not a question of whether 2021 will be better than 2020. How could it not be?
But there’s no doubt we still have a long way to go, and have to take a realistic outlook on life, family and society.
The good news?
We’ll get there.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.