LILLEY: Polling shows Canadians more cautious on COVID reopening

People may be fed up with lockdowns, but they are also scared, cautious and don’t want governments moving too fast.

Virginia McIntosh co-owner of Breakwall BBQ, brings out the chairs in preparation for patio reopenings in Toronto.

I’ve heard it countless times since last spring, “We need to open everything now! End the lockdowns!” While I appreciate the sentiment and at times have felt this was the right thing to do, based on how COVID numbers were looking at the time, my response has often been, the public won’t accept that.

Having the public onside isn’t necessarily governing by the polls and there have been times when the government of the day could have done more to assure the public that not everything was doom and gloom when it comes to COVID-19. That doesn’t take away from the simple fact that Canadians are more cautious than our American cousins.

Having Canadians say that they want their premier to act just like Governor Ron Desantis in Florida or Governor Gregg Abbott in Texas ignores this reality as well as some key facts.

Both Florida and Texas have higher, much higher hospital bed and ICU bed capacity than anywhere in this country. That means when a surge of cases hits, they can handle it.

Florida and Texas are also much warmer climates than anywhere in Canada which allows for an easier reopening. We all know by now that outside activities come with lower risk than indoor activities.

Finally, the risk tolerance which is borne out by polling but also by the different reactions to deaths from COVID-19. In Florida, the death rate sits at 173 people for every 100,000 of population while Texas sits at 174.

In Canada, the national average is 68 per 100,000 of population. The only province that comes even close is Quebec at 130 while Manitoba is at 79, Ontario at 61, Alberta at 51, Saskatchewan at 47 and British Columbia at 34.

Does anyone think that Ontario residents would have accepted Premier Doug Ford making moves that, even if only in their minds, moved the death count from the current 8,931 to 25,453? That’s the equivalent of the per capita rate in Texas and Florida.

The same numbers for Manitoba would move the province from 1,087 to 2,391 and Alberta would move from 2,262 deaths to 7,690.

I don’t believe the public would have accepted those numbers and if government actions drove the death count up, the public would have demanded stricter measures.

Last week, Maru Public Opinion put a series of statements before people in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom and asked them to agree or disagree. The numbers are telling and show that in Canada we are more cautious.

“It’s time to open everything back up that was closed because of the pandemic and get back to living life normally,” is a statement that 66% of Americans agreed with but just 49% of those in Canada and the UK.

“While some may want to open everything back up to where we were before the pandemic, we need to be cautious in doing so,” was agreed with by 86% in Canada and the UK but just 78% in the United States.

“I think governments and healthcare officials are being too cautious about getting past the pandemic-we need to accelerate our full re-engagement with business, work, and life,” is something that 51% of Americans agreed to compared to 38% in the UK and 39% in Canada.

Finally, on reopening faster, the numbers were similarly cautious across the board.

“We are re-opening up things too quickly-regardless of how far we’ve come, the threat of COVID variant viruses is still present and we have to be cautious not to have a fourth wave,” 57% of Canadians agreed with that compared to 59% of Americans and 66% of Brits.

People may be fed up with lockdowns, they may want to get back to normal life but they are also scared, extremely cautious and don’t want governments moving too fast.

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