As our lives remain more new than normal, here are some predictions (and wishful thinking) for 2022.
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry’s credibility keeps slipping. Last spring, she drove the third wave by refusing to close Whistler when she knew the projections. She also withheld geographical data about COVID-19 and then claimed it was available “all along” – her favourite defensive phrase. Some journalists described this communication as “gaslighting,” “truth bending,” and “condescending.”
She recently communicated more confusion when she claimed it’s “unclear” if the Omicron variant is airborne – contradicting what we know about COVID. Henry has long resisted saying “airborne” because it means conceding to vocal opponents. She also keeps implying that unvaccinated people are exclusive spreaders, while putting almost no onus on vaccinated people who can also spread the virus. This creates a false sense of security – evidenced in social posts of group gatherings – that increases cases.
To influence behaviour, messages need to be clear. As Henry continues to spin, people have tuned out with dire consequences. I predict another misstep that finally sees her replaced as pandemic lead.
Analysis of one year of data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 94.9% of hospitalized adults with COVID had underlying conditions, some of which increase the risk for severe illness or death, including excess weight and smoking. B.C. health officials have ignored medical context to, presumably, create fear and make us entirely dependent on their directives.
With some underlying conditions being within our control, this year people will rethink their overall health.
Private health care
A survey shows that since the pandemic started, most Canadians support a balance of public and private health care. We will see more support for Dr. Brian Day, who is awaiting an appeals court decision on his claim that B.C.’s medical system is denying timely care.
Denying private health care makes little sense. If people leave the queue, that means reduced backlogs.
With vaccine effectiveness diminishing, governments will push booster after booster as new variants emerge. People will lose confidence in vaccines, increasing hesitancy. It’s unhelpful that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine joins AstraZeneca in being punted as a safe first option. That’s half of Canada’s approved COVID vaccine brands.
Trudeau hurts recovery
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doles out free money, our labour shortage will deepen. Over Christmas, he announced another COVID relief fund. While some reports say the shortage has nothing to do with relief benefits, restaurant owners said benefits were “killing” their industry as too many people who could work as lockdowns eased opted for handouts. More maddening was that Trudeau distributed freebies without implementing systems to properly scrutinize eligibility. Our tax dollars hard at work, pun intended.
Even with concerns the Chinese telecom company Huawei could be a national security risk, Trudeau will approve its 5G technology because, as we recently learned, his government tracked our cellphones and didn’t tell us.
War on dogs
Dogs seem a greater crisis than climate change or human health. Vancouver bylaw signage:
•Idling engine: no fine posted
•Smoking at parks/beaches: $250. That’s the price of a bystander’s health?
•Dogs near playgrounds/sports fields: $10,000 (as seen at Strathcona Park)
The primarily non-dog-owning task force that created the 2017 People, Parks & Dogs strategy is out of step. The pet population has exploded, development has forced several dog daycares to close – making parks more critical – and it’s near-impossible to open a daycare in Vancouver.
In reading this piece, someone at City Hall will see fit to revamp the 10-year strategy.
State of emergency
Much was said about the provincial government’s poor crisis response to last year’s extreme weather. B.C. will likely remain under a perpetual state of emergency … and government will be the last to know.
The Bay’s demise
The Bay is the retailer that time forgot. As businesses accelerate digital capabilities, The Bay offers a tired, frustrating experience in person and online. Its call centre conjures jokes from late-night talks shows. Once a Canadian company, its American owner may (should) decide to finally pull the pin.
Premier John Horgan will return to the legislature in fine form, a hope shared across the political spectrum.
Renu Bakshi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a former longtime journalist now working as a senior communications strategist specializing in crisis management and media training.