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Coronavirus: Justin Trudeau Has Come of Age – By Prof. Phil Alalibo

By Prof. Phil Alalibo | NNP | April 4, 2020 | It is often said that the true quality of a leader is seen in challenging times, and it was John Maxwell, the American author, who added the axiomatic maxim that “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” With the ongoing pandemic, the sometimes lethargic Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has been acting like a seasoned statesman in a manner never witnessed by Canadians in the four plus years he has been in office. It appears that finally, he has come of age with what many Canadians deem as his commendable handling of the health crisis. While leaders across the globe have been late to the ball game, and paying the price for their lateness, Trudeau, his cabinet and team of experts were preparing for the looming health tsunami of unsurpassed proportion to befall humanity.

Trudeau’s tenacity and resolve is evident in each press briefings given on the modest fore-grounds of his Rideau Cottage residence in Ottawa. The once beardless and youthful-looking leader whose wife fell victim to the virus, and who some have dismissed as a lightweight among the ego-ridden heavy weights in the G7, has risen to the challenge with his methodical and precise response to the crisis. Trudeau is fast becoming the prototype in strong and practical leadership during a catastrophic health crisis. Now, more than ever before, Canadians have confidence in their political leaders to come to their aid in their most vulnerable hour.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Trudeau has embodied hope for Canadians with each news briefing, using the powers of his office to lift and install in them the confidence that the country will overcome this crisis. Canadians are seeing his leadership towering well above the infinite sights of the CN Tower, and this is seen in the recent robust relief packages announced. The announcement of $87 billion in aid (to Canadians) is a textbook example of how a conscientious government should function and fulfill its responsibilities to its citizens, especially in precarious times. These funds are designed to provide temporary financial relief to Canadians, giving each who qualify $2,000 per month for four months. Also sharing in the emergency relief largesse, are businesses, charitable and non-charitable organizations, including churches. They could apply for 75% subsidies of their workers’ salaries if they suffered a 30% reduction in revenue as a result of the pandemic. Small to medium size businesses, the drivers of the economy, could also apply for a $40,000 loan of which $10,000 could be forgiven under certain conditions.

Trudeau’s leadership transcends a tranche of stimulus packages for Canadians impacted by the crisis. With countries around the world being ravaged by the virus, he encouraged or facilitated the return of well over one million stranded Canadians in chartered flights. There were flights filled with Canadians flying in from unlikely places such as Algeria, Morocco and even Peru. Those who could not get on the flights were given $5,000 loan to arrange their return.

Trudeau led by example when he and the entire House of Commons members donated their April 1 pay-raise to charities of all persuasions as a further demonstration of empathy for and oneness with Canadians who have suddenly found themselves in an unprecedented economic position. Though the pay-raise donation was symbolic as the amount was inconsequential in the grand scheme of affairs, the gesture is not lost even on the casual observer of how the PM is scoring high marks in his overall management of the crisis.

In the midst of the pandemic, Trudeau demonstrated the multi-faceted role of government by addressing the recent downing of Ukrainian airlines by Iranian forces that killed all 176 passengers on board, including 63 Canadians. He appointed a former public safety minister, Raphl Goodale, to coordinate his government’s response to the tragedy, in an effort to hold the Iranians accountable.

The general preparation for the pandemic has not been flawless, but nevertheless, worth commending, bearing in mind the enormity of the moment. Trudeau and his team have learned very quickly from the nerve-wrecking events unfolding in neighboring United States, of the irreversible consequences of the dearth of ventilators. To avoid similar predicament, the government has ordered ventilators that are so critical to tackle the respiratory disease before there is a pressing need for them across the vast country. The availability of testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) that are so much in dire need across the border has been given the highest priority. During his briefing on March 31, the Prime Minister indicated that three Canadian companies have been contracted to produce ventilators, and others engaged to provide the PPE and associated medical gears.

This home-made solution is significant and captures the gravity of the pandemic at a time when American states are looking to China, ironically the source of the deadly virus, for the cure by procuring Chinese-made ventilators. In an irony that has come full circle with paradoxical mien, China is benefiting financially from the virus that emanated within its borders that has consumed thousands across the globe. New York, for example, has ordered 17,000 ventilators from China at an exorbitant price of $25,000 each.

While this is a practical move designed to save lives, such a huge sum is better injected into the US economy with the purchase of American-made ventilators at a time when governments at all levels are spending widely to contain the virus. But sadly, American companies are ill-prepared for this unexpected surge in demand for ventilators, causing states like New York to seek external sources. In contrast, Trudeau’s pro-Canadian stance to buy most of the medical equipment locally could be viewed within the broader context of national interest, to support the Canadian economy in these perilous times, not to mention being economically efficient and prudent.

The Canadian federalist system that instituted a relatively weak central government and semi-autonomous provinces did not prevent Trudeau from leveraging executive power to put in place viable measures to prevent the spread of the virus. From closing the borders to all non-Canadians with a few exceptions like Americans, international students to limiting the number of airports that would receive international flights, to advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travels, Trudeau demonstrated exceptional leadership to tame the evolving crisis. His multi-faceted approach bearing on the economy, social and political fabric of the nation appears to be yielding results.

The concept of national citizenship holds that it is contractual and obligatory between the citizenry and the government. In this contract of sorts, the citizens pay taxes, obey the laws, protect the environment, elect their leaders, respect the societal values and norms, and the government in turn, provides protection, security, infrastructure and the general atmosphere for job creation among others. The actions of Trudeau and his government is a fulfillment of its end of the contract. They are keeping Canadians safe and hopeful in a dungy-gloomy universe, while leaving no stones unturned to ensure that the country emerges from this crisis stronger and united.

What is intriguing, but commendable in Trudeau’s efforts in containing the virus, is the conscious avoidance of partisan politics that could very well muddy the waters, an outcome that could be disastrous in mitigating the crisis. Even the deliberation and passage of the relief funds of $87 billion was relatively devoid of the usual political brinksmanship that has become the hallmark of legislative debates. It is worth noting that Trudeau’s leadership in these troubled times is coming on the heels of a half-hearted mandate handed to his Liberals in last October’s federal elections. Against these odds, one must conclude that Trudeau (and indeed Canada’s political leaders of all stripes) has come of age in the coronavirus crisis.

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Posted by on Apr 4 2020. Filed under Articles, Canadian Politics, Columnists, Headlines, NNP Columnists, P. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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