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Why Vaccine Mandates No Longer Make Sense—to Me

Disclaimer #1: I have been triple vaccinated against Covid. I wore a mask when mandated and followed other Covid restrictions. I have never tested positive for Covid, although it is certainly possible that I have had a mild dose.

Disclaimer #2: I wrote most of this blog two or three months ago but refrained from posting it mainly because I didn’t want to have to deal with all the negative comments it would generate.

Disclaimer #3: Although I have training in how to conduct and evaluate research, I am not a scientist or a medical doctor.

So, as a non-professional, how do I dare to offer an opinion on Covid restrictions? Shouldn’t I leave that to the professionals?

I am convinced by the statistical data that the Covid vaccines greatly reduce the rate of becoming seriously ill, being hospitalized, and dying of Covid. So, I think that those who refuse to be vaccinated are wrong.

However, I also believe that they have a right to be wrong.  The reality is that we non-professionals are required to make medical decisions all the time. Do I feel sick enough to go to the doctor or the emergency room? Should I have that risky operation, weighing all the possible benefits and risks that the surgeon has outlined? Should I bother to have a flu shot this year? What medication should I take for my cold? Should I take the Oxycontin or morphine the doctor prescribed after my operation? Our modern governments insist that “A woman has sole rights over her own body,” when it comes to abortion. Why should that absolute control cease when it comes to Covid vaccines? Governments generally do not require people to disclose whether they have other communicable diseases such as AIDS or require people to be vaccinated against the flu or other communicable diseases. So, why does the right to medical privacy and medical autonomy cease when it comes to Covid? (Some governments have ruled that hospital workers wear masks if they are not vaccinated against flu, a mandate that was met with considerable resistance.)

So, let us consider vaccine passports and vaccine restrictions.

Vaccine passports were introduced to allow the economy to open up somewhat during the pandemic. It meant that if I had been vaccinated, I could go to a restaurant secure in the knowledge that everyone else in the restaurant had also been vaccinated and could not pass Covid on to me—except for the cooks and servers, who did not have to be vaccinated.

Vaccine mandates seems to have been based on the assumption that the vaccines offered immunity or at least very strong protection against Covid. The flaw in that argument is that if the vaccines offered even very strong protection, why should I worry about going to a restaurant and being around unvaccinated people? They couldn’t infect me anyway.

But maybe vaccine passports were intended to prevent unvaccinated people from gathering in any public place and passing Covid to each other? If so, that was never made clear.

Vaccine passports seemed to work well during the Delta variant surge. It was a more lethal strain of the disease but not so easily transmitted. Delta was said to be “a disease of the unvaccinated.” This wasn’t strictly true, but it is true that unvaccinated people were much more likely to get infected, become very sick, be hospitalized, and die.

This changed with the Omicron variant, which was much more easily transmitted and was much less lethal. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated people contracted omicron, in large numbers. (This was what some health experts said would happen, as Covid followed the path of some other diseases that have tended to become more transmissible and less lethal over time.)

A useful test case was NHL hockey players. They were almost 100% vaccinated (all but one player, I think), and yet the vast majority of them contracted Covid. Every member of the Vancouver Canucks has had Covid, some of them twice. We know this because, in order to be allowed to play, players had to be tested every day. As a result, many of them tested positive while only having minor symptoms or no symptoms at all.

If we extrapolate that to the general population, we can assume that a majority of Canadians have had Covid at some time, perhaps as a mild cold or even without developing symptoms, over the past two years. (Governments are now admitting that a third to half of Canadians have had Covid at some point, but the numbers could be higher.) In fact, Omicron became so widespread that governments have essentially given up on testing the general population and counting cases. Since over 90% of us have been vaccinated and many of us have had the disease, we probably have about as much immunity as we are going to get.

And vaccine mandates, isolating unvaccinated people from everyone else, are not going to stop the spread of omicron. It is too transmissible. Canadian government rules preventing the unvaccinated from travelling across borders and requiring travellers to be tested no longer make much sense since the disease is so prevalent in our own population already. It is far too late to try to keep Covid out of the country. It is ludicrous that 20,000 unmasked fans can gather to cheer on the Toronto Maple Leafs but the team itself cannot fly across the border without being tested. It is ludicrous that thousands of citizens can gather for a political rally, but the government insists it is too dangerous for 300-odd MPs to gather in Parliament. It still makes some sense to require care home workers to be vaccinated (since it could reduce the rate of transmission or the seriousness of transition), but it does not make sense to require civil servants working in an office cubicle or from home to also be vaccinated. (I have a suspicion that the federal government’s insistence on maintaining restrictions long after provincial governments have eased up on theirs might have something to with the federal government not being willing to admit that the trucker protest might have been right. The government does not want to appear to be caving in to pressure.)

Furthermore, the vaccines seem to wear off and lose their effectiveness after a few months. This may partly be because they were not normal vaccines anyway. Normal vaccines inject a dead virus into the body, triggering the body to produce antibodies to combat it. Covid vaccines don’t work that way, and I have yet to see a clear explanation of what they are and how they work in terms that a lay person can understand. (Governments telling us to trust them on this is not enough when they are often less trustworthy in other areas.)

We non-professionals seem to have grasped this, as the rate of people getting booster shots and children being vaccinated seems to have plateaued. From their own experiences and observations, many people have concluded that while Covid is a significant threat, the vaccination protection they have already received is about as good as they are going to get. They have recognized that while children do get Covid, most do not get very sick. The old and vulnerable, on the other hand, are still dying of Covid even thought they have been vaccinated, just as the old and vulnerable die of flu every year even if they have been vaccinated. Governments also seem to have recognized this reality as they have ceased to strongly push for more people to be vaccinated or to get booster shots.

The reality is that the Covid vaccines do not provide immunity or even exceptionally strong protection against Covid. They provide strong protection perhaps. While health authorities have insisted that they are “safe and effective,” the reality is that they are relatively safe and generally effective.

It is helpful to understand that, although this was not always made clear by government and public health authorities, all of the vaccines, lockdowns, handwashing, mask wearing, and vaccine restrictions were never intended to stop or prevent the spread of Covid. That was impossible. They were intended only to slow the spread of the disease to keep it from overwhelming the health care system. That was a very real danger and could have resulted in very large death rates. (There were places in the world that at times ran out of ventilators and hospital beds.)

After all of the lockdowns, restrictions, and vaccine mandates, government and public health authorities are now telling us that we will “have to learn to live with Covid.” This means that the old and vulnerable will continue to die of Covid, just as they continue to die of flu and other communicable diseases every year. It also means that there will likely be lockdowns of seniors’ homes and some other places, just as there are occasional lockdowns due to outbreaks of flu, SARS, etc. Annual Covid booster shots may become as routine as annual flu shots; they, after all, provide some protection. And I suspect people will continue to have recurring bouts of Covid, just as people in tropical countries have recurring bouts of diseases such as malaria—it will be seen as serious but inevitable. There is also the possibility that a new Covid variant will arise, creating a need for further lockdowns.

The evidence suggests that masks, hand washing, quarantines, and lockdowns are still effective—against Covid and against other diseases—at least to some extent. In fact, these measures have been used in various settings and in specific situations for many years, just not for entire populations. As the rules on lockdowns and masks have eased, Covid cases have risen—along with cases of colds, flu, and other diseases. The government-imposed restrictions over the past couple of years protected us against more than Covid. But the reality is that the restrictions cannot be continued forever. Humans are social beings, and it is not good for us, physically as well as mentally, to remain isolated indefinitely. Nor can our economy remain shut down or restricted forever. There comes a point when the restrictions cause more problems than they prevent—and I think we have reached that point.

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How good are Bruce Boudreau’s Vancouver Canucks?

The Vancouver Canucks have just finished the 2021-2022 season 5 points out of a playoff position. If they had won just 3 more games in the 82-game season, they could have made the playoffs. Close but no cigar. But head coach Bruce Boudreau and many of the players are saying that they still have a pretty good team and no major changes are needed. It was only a slow start under former coach Travis Green that did them in.

Let’s examine that.

Under Green, the team was 8-15-2; that is, they had 8 wins, 15 losses, and 2 overtime losses (for overtime losses, teams earn a single point, compared to 2 points for a win). The team thus earned 18 of a possible 50 points under Green, for a winning percentage of .360. Extrapolated over a full season, that would have placed them 30th in the 32-team league, ahead of only Montreal and Arizona.

Under Boudreau, the team went 32-15-10, earning 74 of a possible 114 points for a winning percentage of .649. Over a full season, that percentage would have placed them 11th in the league, not good enough to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference but good enough for second place in the weak Pacific Division. In other words, they would be a good team, good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to be realistic contenders for the Stanley Cup, not quite ready to compete with the big boys.

Another thing to consider is that teams often get a “bump,” an infusion of hope and energy when a coaching change is made. In Vancouver’s case, the team won their first 8 games under Boudreau. Take away this “new coach bump,” and Vancouver was 24-15-10 the rest of the season. That is good for 58 of a possible 98 points and a winning percentage of .592. Over a full season, that would have tied them with the Nashville Predators for 16th place and the last wild card spot, barely squeaking into the playoffs.

So, the coaching change greatly improved the Canucks’ performance, but did it make them a team that should essentially stand pat, keep the same roster for next year? It is important to point out that the coaching change was not the only change made. At the same time as Boudreau was hired, General Manager Jim Benning was fired and replaced by President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford and new General Manager Patrik Allvin. The general manager is in charge of drafting, trading, and signing players. So far, Rutherford and Allvin have made almost no changes to the team. So, this “pretty good” Canucks team is not Rutherford’s and Allvin’s team but the team put together by Benning. (Maybe Benning did not deserve to be fired after all.)

So, what should Rutherford and Allvin do now? The reality in the NHL is that it is easier to turn a bad team into a good team than it is to turn a good team into a great team capable of winning the Stanley Cup. Easier, not easy. What you have to do is trade your older players for draft picks and use the money you save to sign free agents. If you are lucky and make wise drafting and signing and trading choices, in a few years you will have a good team. Even the incompetent Edmonton Oilers management was eventually able to snag Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

It is harder to turn a good team into a championship team. Just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, what can Rutherford and Allvin do to turn their pretty good team into a better team? Anything they do—or don’t do—carries risks.

Should they trade 19-goal scorer Conor Garland or 23-goal scorer Brock Boeser and hope to get a 30 or 40-goal scorer back? But what if the players they get back turn out to be 15-goal scorers? Or should they sign Garland and Boeser to long-term contracts and hope they grow into 30 or 40-goal scorers? But what if they don’t? What if they regress to 15-goal scorers?

Should the Canucks trade 5-goal scorer Jason Dickinson and 7-goal scorer Juho Lammiko in the hope they get 10-goal scorers in return? They aren’t going to get 40-goal scorers in return for those guys. But what if the players they get back turn out to be 2-goal scorers? And even if the trade works and they get 10-goal scorers back, would it make much difference? How far would it go toward turning a good team into a great team?

And, of course, goal scoring is only one part of the equation. In evaluating players, the general manager also has to consider playmaking (assists), character, hard work, size and strength, durability, team chemistry, team balance, checking, defensive play, winning faceoffs, and the salary cap.

It is not easy to turn a good team into a great team, but hope springs eternal in hockey fans’ hearts. The Canucks haven’t lost a single game in the 2022-2023 season yet. Which means their winning percentage is 1.000. Or 0.000. Or somewhere in between.

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The Significance of Cockpit Resource Management

Modern passenger airplanes are extremely safe, with overlapping safeguards (including having a pilot and co-pilot). An airplane rarely crashes due to a single problem. Usually, in an airplane crash, one or more mechanical issues are compounded by one or more pilot errors.

“Cockpit resource management” is a training process that was developed after it was discovered that planes were crashing due to flight crews’ failure to properly respond to crises. One of the prime issues was the previous command structure in which the pilot had absolute authority to fly the plane and make decisions. Less experienced co-pilots were reluctant to challenge this authority or even make strong recommendations. When the pilot made a mistake, when the pilot misunderstood a situation, when a pilot failed to see and understand a problem, when a pilot became distracted or too narrowly focused, there was no way to correct the mistake or save the plane.

For example, one crew of three was so focused on a burnt-out landing gear light that none of them noticed that the autopilot had been turned off and the plane was descending into a swamp.

Another crew was so focused on another landing gear problem that the plane ran out of fuel and crashed into a neighborhood.

Another highly regarded pilot thought he was still heading toward the airport when he had already passed it. The much younger and less experienced co-pilot timidly suggested the truth. The pilot ignored him and flew the plane into the side of a mountain.

Another pilot insisted that the plane was lined up with the runway and ignored the co-pilot’s warning that they were badly off-course. They crashed.

Another pilot trusted his own faulty speed gauge while ignoring the co-pilot’s accurate gauge and put his plane into a fatal stall.

Cockpit Resource Management is intended to foster a less-authoritarian cockpit culture in which co-pilots are encouraged to question captains (pilots) if they have observed them making mistakes and to even take control of a plane in extreme cases. It encourages respect, teamwork, and cooperation. One key element is communication, both speaking up and listening, making clear objections, and giving clear orders. Another is delegating and dividing responsibilities. For instance, in the first example, disaster could have been averted if one pilot had focused on fixing the light (responding to the crisis) while the other flew the plane. This requires trust, and not just the others trusting the pilot to fly the plane. It also requires the pilot to trust subordinates enough to listen, really listen, to their concerns, and also to trust them to carry out delegated tasks without supervision, thus freeing the pilot to focus on his/her own tasks.

If Cockpit Resource Management is so crucial for air travel, could it also provide useful guidance in other fields?

Could prime ministers, presidents, and other political leaders benefit from learning to listen more to their subordinates (and even constituents)? Would it be better if they were able to delegate tasks more effectively rather than micromanaging? Are their subordinates able and willing to challenge leaders when they are wrong, instead of blindly supporting them and going down in flames along with them?

And what about the church? How many churches and ministry organizations have foundered because strong and autocratic leaders have been unwilling to listen to advice and warnings? Because such leaders have failed to trust their associates and followers? Because their followers have failed to warn them when they began to veer off-course?

Proverbs 11:14 (NIV) says, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” Proverbs 15:22 repeats, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

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Trudeau and the Truckers

Justin Trudeau has a dilemma. Like other rulers who believe in the divine right of kings, he thinks he is god. His view of government is simple: he makes the rules and everyone obeys. When people don’t obey, he does not know what to do. So far, he has called the truckers names (which sounds strange from the man who wants to outlaw “hate speech”) and demanded that they stop. He may eventually figure it out.

Trudeau’s options are limited. He can wait the truckers out and try to cut off their support and starve them into submission (a tactic used in siege warfare). The city of Ottawa is taking this route, but not the federal government so far. He could negotiate with the truckers and give them at least some of what they are asking for. Of course, he would lose face if he negotiated with people he has declared to be criminals and no longer citizens. He could do what medieval rulers often did—meet with the truckers, agree to meet their demands, and then, after they have dispersed, arrest them and their families. He could send in the army, but it would not look good for the ruler a democracy to send in the army to attack its own citizens. And it would entrench hatred for him and his government among a significant segment of the population that would last decades.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has declared that the truckers’ goal is to “overthrow the government.” It is an assertion both ludicrous and correct. The truckers have no plans to mount an insurrection. Otherwise, they would have brought guns instead of bouncy castles and barbecues. Despite appearances, they are not the January 6 American mob. However, it is true that they hope the public pressure they are mounting will lead to someone voting Justin Trudeau out of office (the opposition parties or perhaps the Liberal Party itself). And it is true that they are deliberately defying the government.

What has happened in this case, and what he finds so surprising and uncomfortable, is that Justin Trudeau seems to have come up against the limits of government power. He does not understand the lesson of Prohibition (the failed attempt a century ago to outlaw alcohol). Most commentators say that the lesson of Prohibition is that “You can’t legislate morality.” Nonsense. All laws are an attempt to legislate morality, to forbid actions that harm other people or society as a whole. What Prohibition demonstrated is that you can’t enforce a law if a significant minority are determined to disobey it. The problem is not just the truckers in Ottawa. If this situation continues, more and more people in the rest of the country will feel freer to also disobey Covid regulations and possibly other laws. It is a serious danger.

For Trudeau, the problem is partly of his own making.

In the first place, Trudeau himself has shown a propensity to ignore laws when they are inconvenient to him. Early on in the pandemic, he broke Covid lockdown regulations to participate in a Black Lives Matter protest. Then he called an unnecessary election in the midst of the pandemic. As prime minister, he has been found guilty of ethics violations three times. He has declared that court decisions were wrong. Most notoriously, he interfered in the judicial system to derail the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, an act that would likely have landed an ordinary citizen in jail. People learn by example. By bringing the law into disrepute, Trudeau has weakened the rule of law. Considering Trudeau’s cavalier attitude to the law, he is in no position to criticize the truckers.

Second, the Trudeau government has a penchant for imposing arbitrary, burdensome, and sometimes illogical and unfair regulations. Allowing truckers to avoid vaccine requirements for most of the pandemic and then changing the rules in the waning stages of the pandemic is just the latest example. Remember the rule that returning travellers had to quarantine in only a few very extensive hotels? Then there is the government’s decision that every Canadian must drive an electric vehicle, even if this means that some Canadians will be priced out of vehicle ownership. Eventually, resentment over such arbitrary impositions reaches a breaking point.

Third, for most of its time in power, the Trudeau government has been tolerating, excusing, condoning, and sometimes encouraging a variety of protests (often by environmental and First Nations activists and sometimes by unions) that have blocked roads, rail lines, and work sites, defaced and dismantled monuments, burned churches, etc. The Conservative Party had proposed making the blocking of transportation routes illegal, but the Liberals opposed the idea. Trudeau’s attacks on the truckers for using tactics that he has endorsed when used by other groups rings hollow.

The truckers’ protest is not a threat to democracy, at least in the short run although it might be in the long run, but it certainly poses a threat to the Trudeau government, simply by demonstrating its inconsistencies and its weakness.

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An Historical Perspective

The current truckers’ protest reminds me of late medieval peasants’ revolts such as the Pilgrimage of Grace, Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, and the German Peasants’ War. These “revolts” were not usually intended to overthrow the government. Rather, they were often designed to rescue the king from “bad advisers” and seek “redress of grievances.” Nevertheless, they terrified, alarmed, and befuddled the ruling elites, who tended to characterize the rebels as criminals and dangerous revolutionaries.

In the end, these revolts were generally ineffectual. Most were snuffed out, usually violently. They were ineffectual because they were poorly organized and unfocused, with multiple and sometimes unrelated and conflicting goals. The leaders often had limited understanding of government and could offer no realistic or workable solutions to their problems.

However, this does not mean that these revolts were unimportant or insignificant. They revealed deep, underlying social problems. They were essentially cries for help. They arose out of deep, long-term suffering, frustration, anger, and desperation. They exposed blind spots in the ruling elites, who had no idea of the effect their taxation and other policies were having on the common people. Sadly, the elites almost always remained blind, having no empathy for the suffering of the people and accepting no blame for the part they had played in creating the unrest.

Late medieval peasants’ revolts remind me of the current truckers’ protest.

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Rating Canada’s Prime Ministers

I thought it might be interesting to offer my own assessment of the people who have been prime minister of Canada in my lifetime. The following is based on my personal observations as a voter and sometime political junkie. Others will no doubt disagree with my assessments.

The Good

The best prime minister in my estimation was Stephen Harper. He provided boring, competent management of the national government and the national economy. Many of his accomplishments gained little public attention, such as the numerous agreements to expand and diversify foreign trade. Harper was hard-working and intelligent, had a broad vision for the country, and had a good understanding of how institutions and economies work. He had broad interests that went far beyond politics. He knew how to manage people. There were virtually no corruption scandals during his tenure. (The spending allowance excesses of two senators hardly count. The irony is that they were not party insiders but journalists, nonpartisan appointments.) Harper had his blind spots, such as on the environment (although his actual record on this issue is not much different from those of Jean Chretien before him and Justin Trudeau after him[1]). He was also a mediocre campaigner who did not inspire people.

A close second (and a very different type of prime minister) would be Lester Pearson. He had a good understanding of government and political issues. In the sheer number of major achievements, no other prime minister would even come close, except perhaps John A. Macdonald. The Canada Pension Plan, the student loan program, medicare, the Trans-Canada Highway, and the Canadian flag were only some of the achievements of his government. He did not excite Canadians (he was never able to achieve a majority government, which makes his list of achievements even more remarkable), but he did not antagonize them either. He attracted and recruited good cabinet ministers. He didn’t always seem to be in firm control, but he muddled through remarkably. On the downside, his many new programs expanded the reach of the government and laid the groundwork for the deficit spending of later governments.

Third would be Jean Chretien. He was in politics a long time and understood how government impacted average people. Of all our prime ministers, he was closest to being a common man, one of the people. (In general, intelligent and competent people from humble backgrounds have done better as prime minister than the rich and famous members of the elite.) Chretien had a clear program for the country (his famous Red Book) although it did not often rise to the level of a vision for the country. His greatest achievement was that he was able to reign in the deficit spending of his predecessors. Sadly, toward the end, he became more focused on directing government spending to his friends, his party (the sponsorship scandal), and his own riding.

The Bad                 

In my view, Justin Trudeau is unquestionably the worst prime minister in my lifetime. In terms of sheer incompetence and corruption, his record is unequalled. He has massively mismanaged the economy. He has amassed far more public debt than all other prime ministers combined. His corruption scandals are numerous. He has interfered in the judicial system for partisan political purposes. In his pursuit of dictatorial power, he has trampled on human rights, shown contempt for Parliament, and weakened Canadian democracy. His bald-faced lying and his habit of dipsy doodling to avoid answering questions have increased cynicism and distrust. He has deeply divided the country. He has a limited understanding of government, economics, and international relations and has no great vision for the country. He is one of the least hardworking prime ministers in history, all while insisting that he has to control everything. He does not trust his cabinet ministers to act on their own, the result being that competent ministers are driven away and replaced by second-rate people willing to follow him blindly. He is a great campaigner, but he is all show with no substance. He claims to be a champion of the environment, women’s rights, racial equality, and many other matters, but his record on these issues is spotty at best.

The second worst prime minister was Brian Mulroney. It is not so much that he made bad policy decisions, but more that he did not do very much at all. It is hard to think of a single accomplishment or achievement of his government. (The one bright spot was NAFTA, the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement, which, on balance, has been good for the economy.) His biggest failure was that, in spite of having two successive majority governments, he continued to run the same massive deficits as his predecessor. And there were numerous scandals involving kickbacks and other types of corruption under his administration. He had no great vision or principles. By the time he was done, his government was deeply unpopular.

The third worst prime minister was Pierre Trudeau. He was highly intelligent and had a deep and thorough understanding of how governments and societies operate. His greatest achievement was saving the Canadian confederation by driving back Quebec separatism. He had a clear vision and could articulate it well. He articulated why the Canadian government was an institution worth preserving. Unfortunately, his greatest strength was also his greatest weakness. His focus on fighting Quebec separatism led him to neglect and alienate Alberta and the west. With his focus on political and social issues, he had no great interest in economic issues. This led to massive and sustained government deficits which weakened the Canadian economy and hurt many Canadians. Further, he was in some senses a solitary man who lacked the personal touch. He was so intelligent that he did not suffer fools gladly and had little interest in the ideas of anyone he considered inferior (and he considered most people inferior). He inherited a competent cabinet but did not seem to value or appreciate his ministers, and they eventually drifted away, leaving him with a second-rate team.      

The Ugly

John Turner, Joe Clark, Kim Campbell, and Paul Martin could all be seen as failed prime ministers, but none of them was in power for very long. It is therefore impossible for us to form an accurate judgement on how well or badly they might have performed in the job.


[1] The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in 1992 and was later reaffirmed as the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. In it, nations committed themselves to combat global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Committing themselves to these agreements, Liberal governments managed to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions from 603 million tonnes in 1990 to 739 million tonnes in 2005.

Things went backward under the Harper Conservatives, when emissions rose from 739 million tonnes in 2005 to 723 million tonnes in 2015.

Progress resumed under Justin Trudeau, as Canada’s emissions dropped from 723 million tonnes in 2015 to 730 million tonnes in 2019 (the last year for which we have figures).

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The Tyranny of the Majority

Federal and provincial governments in Canada are requiring a wide range of workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19; if they refuse, they will lose their jobs. The news media have been reporting repeatedly on a survey that shows “70% of Canadians” agree people who refuse to be vaccinated should be fired—as if that validates the governments’ decisions. I find this deeply troubling, the latter more than the former.

Let me be clear. I have been double vaccinated against COVID and have even received the third, booster shot. I have been vaccinated against the flu again this year. I wear a mask in public places and observe other government-mandated pandemic restrictions. I believe the statistics that the risks associated with being vaccinated (and there are some) are far less than the risks associated with having COVID.

I think it is reasonable to require workers in nursing homes to be vaccinated. The risk is too great that these workers will bring in a disease that will kill a large number of the people they are there to care for. I am less convinced about the requirement that every government employee pushing paper in an office cubicle or working from home should be required to be vaccinated, especially when the rules are applied unevenly and school teachers and restaurant workers are not required to be vaccinated.

Governments, especially modern governments, have great power to control and restrict the lives of their citizens. Therefore, it is necessary to put strong limits and restrictions on the power of governments. This is the essence of the freedom we enjoy in Western democracies. It is the point of documents such as the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They are there to protect minorities from oppression by governments and by majorities. (It is true that these declarations of rights are now sometimes being used to oppress minorities rather than protect them. That is understandable because judges and officers of human rights tribunals are appointed by the majority. But that is an argument for another time.)

The philosophy behind democratic freedoms is that government restrictions are justified only when it can be demonstrated that those restrictions are reasonable and necessary for the protection of the general population, society as a whole. For instance, it is reasonable and necessary for governments to forbid murder and theft. (Many of the judicial quandaries of our day revolve around defining these two terms, but that also is an argument for another day.) Government restrictions can NEVER be justified on the grounds that “70% of Canadians” (or any majority) are in favour of them. Consider some examples:

• A majority of Canadians believe that doctors and nurses should be forced to participate in abortions and euthanasia even if it violates their consciences.

• A majority of Canadians apparently believe that evangelical Christian universities should not be allowed to train lawyers (and, by extension perhaps, that evangelical Christians should not be allowed to become lawyers and that therefore they are not entitled to fair legal representation in the courts).

• A majority of Canadians apparently believe that people who are opposed to abortion or same-sex liaisons should not be allowed to run for public office (not that they should not be elected by the majority but that they should not be allowed to run).

• A majority of Canadians apparently believe that Justin Trudeau’s government should impose censorship on the internet.

• A majority of Canadians assume that worship services are not important and can be shut down whenever a government deems it appropriate.

The question is: Are these reasonable and necessary restrictions imposed for the protection of society? Or are they examples of the majority trying to enforce minorities to conform to the values of the majority? (I should point out that these minorities are not all the same people, although there is some overlap in some cases. What they have in common is that they are minorities.)

Governments should not be forcing people to violate their consciences. Critics might argue that those minorities are wrong or misguided or foolish. That may be true. But people have a right to be wrong. And, as history has shown, minorities have been right on occasion, indeed on many occasions.

I am not an anti-vaxxer. I think anti-vaxxers are fighting the wrong battles. They should not be encouraging people to avoid vaccines that save lives. They should not be discouraging people from wearing masks and following COVID lockdown restrictions that save lives. That violates other people’s consciences. They should not be blocking traffic, limiting access to hospitals and schools, or disrupting other public events. (For the record, I don’t think environmental activists should block roads either.) But I do think that anti-vaxxers have instinctively recognized that the fear engendered by the COVID pandemic and governments’ success in expanding their powers in response to it can pose a serious threat to democratic freedoms and human rights.

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The True Nature of Leadership

The English language leaders’ debate in the 2021 Canadian election was disappointing on a number of levels. Among other things, the questions were almost all based on left-wing, liberal, and “progressive” assumptions and therefore received left-wing, liberal, and “progressive” answers. They were generally concerned with how the federal government was going to help or fund various groups, not whether these groups really need help, whether the federal government should help them, or whether the government is able to help them. For instance, one question assumed that seniors need more money. The reality is that some seniors need help and many do not. (I live on a modest income and am one of those who do not.)

But the primary question I would like to discuss here was posed to Conservative leader Erin O’Toole. He was asked whether he was able to control his caucus (on abortion, vaccines, climate change, etc.). O’Toole responded using the same assumption that the questioner had. He said that he controlled his caucus, that he was “driving the bus.” It should be noted that the question was asked of O’Toole because it was assumed that the other leaders control their caucuses better than he does.

No one seemed to even consider whether a party leader or a prime minister should “control” his caucus. We elect members of Parliament with the understanding that each of them is to represent the wishes of a little over 100,000 Canadians. They are paid a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year to do this work. It is a very important and responsible job, and parties and voters take care to select skilled and experienced people to these positions. Three dozen or so of the best of these MPs are then chosen by the prime minister to run various government departments and form the cabinet and make joint decisions in the best interests of the country. For this, they are paid considerably more than the other MPs.

So, why would we think that a prime minister or party leader should “control” these representatives of the people, who are reputed to be among the best and brightest in the nation? Why would we expect these people to be a bunch of mindless twits who do not think for themselves but believe and do whatever the party leader says? Why would a minister be placed in charge of a government department spending billions of dollars a year but be too stupid or incompetent to do his job unless the prime minister tells him or her how to do it?

This is the kind of prime minister Justin Trudeau is. He makes up policies on a whim and expects his cabinet ministers to implement them. This is why so many of them do nothing until the prime minister tells them to act and why so little gets done. And when he tells one of his ministers to break the law and she has the audacity to think for herself and refuse, he fires her. Justin Trudeau acts as if he has the only brain in his party and his cabinet, and sadly it has proven to be a very inferior brain.

This is not leadership. It is dictatorship. Dictators do not attract competent people. They attract yes men and sycophants and people who have no integrity or morals or ethics but will blindly obey orders.

Real leaders have a vision and a character that other competent people admire and are willing to follow—not because they will receive some personal benefit but because they believe in the leader’s vision and character. These are not blind followers but people who have minds of their own, who are capable of developing ideas and policies of their own, who are competent enough to fulfill their responsibilities on their own without supervision. They will have skills and expertise and knowledge separate from their leaders. They may disagree with their leaders at times, but the collective wisdom of such people will produce better decisions than any single leader, no matter how great, could ever produce.

Whether a party leader can control his caucus was the wrong question and received the wrong answer. The proper question is whether a party leader can attract competent people who will work with him to provide good government.

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The Future with Zero-Emission Vehicles

On June 29, 2021, the Canadian government decreed that all cars and light trucks sold in Canada must be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. This massive change in Canadian life has not been brought about by a law passed by Parliament but simply by a “regulation” issued by the minority government of Justin Trudeau. We are increasingly a nation governed by a prime minister rather than by Parliament. Shouldn’t a change such as this at least have been discussed and debated?

This decree raises a number of important questions.

1. Where will the money come from?

Electric-powered vehicles are more expensive to manufacture than gasoline-powered vehicles. Although this varies greatly, an electric car may cost about 50 percent more than an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle. The government knows this, so it subsidizes the cost at every stage. In 2020, the Canadian and Ontario governments invested $590 million (about a third of the total cost) so Ford could upgrade its assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, to start making electric vehicles. Governments also subsidize the installation of charging stations. The cost ranges from over a thousand dollars for a slow-speed charging station in a private home to several thousand dollars for a high-speed charging station. In addition, the Canadian government offers a $5,000 grant toward the purchase of each electric vehicle, and the British Columbia government offers an additional $3,000. Altogether, government subsidies can be as high as $10,000 per vehicle, and even this does not cover all of the additional costs involved, which is one reason Canadians have been reluctant to buy these vehicles.

There are close to 30 million cars and light trucks in Canada, less than 1 percent of them are electric, and electric vehicles still make up considerably less than 5 percent of new vehicle sales. To complete the transition to electric vehicles by 2035, government subsidies, at $10,000 per vehicle, could therefore well exceed $300 billion. Since the life expectancy of most vehicles is about twelve years, the subsidies would have to continue perpetually at a rate of over $25 billion every year.

The Canadian government is already running massive deficits, so it is questionable whether it can continue to subsidize electric vehicles at that rate, and the costs could increasingly fall on consumers. In the larger picture, it does not matter because consumers are the same people as taxpayers. Since there are about 38 million Canadians and the cost of the transition to electric vehicles is considerably over $300 billion (the real additional cost exceeding the government subsidies by a considerable margin), then we can calculate that the change will cost each Canadian about $10,000. Assuming that a vehicle lasts 10-12 years, that means that the change will still cost Canadians close to $1,000 a year. That would be about $4,000 a year for a family of four and would certainly price some families out of vehicle ownership.

2. Where will the electricity come from?

Last summer’s heat waved stretched the capacity of electric grids in some parts of North America. Electric generation will have to increase significantly to charge 25 million electric vehicles in Canada. So where will that increased capacity come from?

From the beginning, the prime source of electricity in Canada has been hydroelectric dams. These can only be built on large rivers flowing rapidly downhill, and there are a limited number of such rivers in Canada even though our nation is better situated in this regard than many other countries. The construction of hydroelectric dams (such as Site C in British Columbia) is becoming more difficult because environmental activists oppose their construction. Apparently, they flood land, disrupt the natural flow of rivers, and are bad for the ecology.

Particularly in the Prairie provinces, there is a shortage of suitable rivers, so a considerable amount of Canadian electricity is still generated by burning coal and natural gas, which undermines the whole purpose in switching to electric vehicles.

Therefore, provinces are turning to nuclear generating stations. These also can have negative environmental impacts. We have no good way of disposing of nuclear waste, not even considering the risks of disasters such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.

This leaves the favourites of environmentalists: solar and wind power. The main problems with these forms of electrical generation are that they are more expensive and that they produce intermittent, inconsistent power (only when the sun shines and the wind blows). As well, solar panels and wind turbines wear out after 25-30 years, creating a recycling issue. So far, the fiberglass blades of wind turbines usually end up in landfills.

3. Where will the land come from?

This is not just about having large tracts of land covered with solar panels and wind turbines. There is also the question of refuelling stations. It takes about five minutes to fill up a car with gasoline. It takes at least six times as long to charge an electric car, even with a fast charging station. Many charging stations can be added to homes and existing parking lots. However, dedicated charging stations will be needed alongside some major highways. Instead of a gas station, imagine a massive parking lot filled with refuelling cars. Gas stations will still be necessary for trucks and other large vehicles.

4. Where will the lithium come from?

Most electric vehicles run on lithium or lithium ion batteries. An electric car battery requires about 10 kilograms of lithium. Fortunately, the estimated world reserves of lithium amount to about 100 million metric tonnes, or 100 billion kilograms, although less than a quarter of that amount is currently considered economically viable. Still, there should be sufficient lithium in the world to provide batteries for billions of vehicles. (Canada incidentally has about 530,000 tonnes of economically viable lithium and currently produces none.) Unfortunately, current annual production of lithium amounts to less than 100,000 tonnes, enough to power about 8 million cars worldwide. Moreover, a considerable amount of the current lithium production is being used for industrial applications and for batteries in cell phones and other devices. Worldwide production of lithium will need to be drastically increased to enable Canada’s conversion to electric vehicles, even without demand from other countries.

Lithium is a mineral, a soft metal, found especially in South America. The current top producers are Australia, Chile, China and Argentina. It is highly reactive and flammable and presents serious environmental concerns.  According to Wikipedia, “The manufacturing processes of lithium, including the solvent and mining waste, presents significant environmental and health hazards. Lithium extraction can be fatal to aquatic life due to water pollution. It is known to cause surface water contamination, drinking water contamination, respiratory problems, ecosystem degradation and landscape damage. It also leads to unsustainable water consumption in arid regions (1.9 million liters per ton of lithium). Massive byproduct generation of lithium extraction also presents unsolved problems, such as large amounts of magnesium and lime waste. In the United States…environmental concerns include wildlife habitat degradation, potable water pollution including arsenic and antimony contamination, unsustainable water table reduction, and massive mining waste, including radioactive uranium byproduct and sulfuric acid discharge.” Of course, since Canada produces no lithium, there is no environmental concern here.

Conclusion

Sound technological solutions to many of these questions may eventually be found, although there is no guarantee. But shouldn’t we at least try to answer some of them before committing to such a massive disruption of the Canadian economy and social fabric?

Environmental activists often give the impression that life in the green economy will be much like our current life except for a much smaller carbon footprint and a cleaner environment. The reality is that in the green economy envisioned for only a couple of decades from now, many of us will have to get about on foot, on bicycles, and on public transit. Extensive travel, both international travel and road trips within Canada, will likely be reserved for the very wealthy. The rest of us will travel as we have been doing during the pandemic, virtually, on electronic devices powered by lithium batteries.   

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Global Connections

I had never met Teus and Maria Kappers—until they asked me to help them publish their joint autobiography. And yet their lives have intersected major connecting points in the global evangelical world. Teus grew up in the Netherlands and Maria in Germany. That they could find each other in the bitter aftermath of the Second World War is testimony to the healing power of the gospel. Teus came to a personal faith in Jesus through Euro 70, a monumental Billy Graham evangelistic effort broadcast all over Europe. He was discipled by the Open Doors ministry started by fellow Dutchman Brother Andrew, known as “God’s smuggler.” (Brother Andrew inspired many to smuggle Bibles into communist countries.) Maria grew up in Freudenstadt (“Town of joy”), which had centuries earlier been a refuge for the Huguenots, persecuted French Protestant followers of John Calvin. Teus and Maria met at the Bible College of Wales, which had been founded in the aftermath of the Welsh Revival. Then they served in various ministries together, including London City Mission, which was one of the many evangelistic and social outreach movements spawned by the evangelical revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries. They immigrated to Canada in 1982, where they played a leading role in the founding of Lighthouse Harbour Ministries, a ministry to seamen in the port of Vancouver, British Columbia, which has had rippled impacts around the world.  They have played a significant role in the global mission of Jesus Christ to make disciples of all nations. 

When We Walk With The Lord (ISBN 978-1-7771926-2-4) is published by my own Mill Lake Books and is available from online retailers and bookstores around the world.