Vancouver Sun

Trump-think has worked its way into Canada

- SHACHI KURL Shachi Kurl is Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the An­gus Reid In­sti­tute, a na­tional, not-for-profit, non-par­ti­san Pub­lic Opinion Re­search foun­da­tion. U.S. News · Canada News · Politics · Donald Trump · United States of America · Brian Mulroney · Joe Biden · Angus

Don­ald Trump has spent much of 2020 in­sist­ing the novel coro­n­avirus would dis­ap­pear. In­stead it has found a com­fort­able home in his lungs. The news is at once re­mark­able and ut­terly or­di­nary. He now joins more than seven mil­lion Amer­i­cans in­fected with a highly con­ta­gious virus. De­spite the tragedy of more than 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 in that coun­try, most have re­cov­ered. I wish the same for the U.S. pres­i­dent.

The com­ing days will be a time for spec­u­la­tion around what this de­vel­op­ment means for the re­main­ing month of the Amer­i­can elec­tion cam­paign. I can't but help re­flect as well on the im­pact of Trump — and the things he says and does — on Cana­dian pub­lic opinion and be­hav­iour.

Much is of­ten made of how peo­ple on this side of the bor­der dis­like him. Less scru­ti­nized is the way his world view has moved and in­ten­si­fied Cana­dian opinion. Not long af­ter he was sworn in as pres­i­dent, one-quar­ter of the peo­ple in this coun­try said they sup­ported a Trump-style travel ban bar­ring Syr­ian refugees. And it is ironic that while the first prime min­is­ter to se­ri­ously cham­pion cli­mate is­sues in Canada was Con­ser­va­tive Brian Mul­roney, since Trump's elec­tion, only about one-third of mod­ern Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers in this coun­try be­lieve that cli­mate change is real and hu­man caused.

There is lit­tle doubt in my mind that he has also had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the way many Cana­di­ans view the se­ri­ous­ness of and re­ac­tion to COVID-19 in their own coun­try. That said, on one key is­sue, we've tuned him out.

Since the be­gin­ning of the pan­demic, Trump's

Let's just hold on to how much bet­ter we've done fight­ing COVID.

sin­gle-minded fo­cus on po­lit­i­cal op­tics over pub­lic health saw him al­most al­ways refuse to wear masks, min­i­mize their ef­fec­tive­ness, or­der his staff and White House of­fi­cials to es­chew them and mock any­one who put one on, in­clud­ing Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den, just days ago dur­ing the train wreck of a de­bate.

But new data from the An­gus Reid In­sti­tute finds more than four-in-five Cana­di­ans say they now wear masks in pub­lic places when they can't phys­i­cally dis­tance at least “most” of the time. Among the mi­nor­ity that don't, the an­swer to “why” of­ten lies in the ba­nal­ity of learning a new habit: they for­get.

A more cu­ri­ous dy­namic emerges over the is­sue of Cana­di­ans and their will­ing­ness to re­ceive a vac­cine. De­spite the fed­eral gov­ern­ment's ef­forts to se­cure more than 70 mil­lion doses of a fu­ture COVID-19 vac­cine, fewer than half of Cana­di­ans (39 per cent) cur­rently say they're ea­ger to re­ceive an in­oc­u­la­tion as soon as one is avail­able. The rest are di­vided be­tween want­ing to wait awhile first (38 per cent), not want­ing a vac­ci­na­tion (16 per cent) and feel­ing flum­moxed about it all (seven per cent). These data rep­re­sent higher lev­els vac­cine am­biva­lence than we saw at the end of July.

Why has will­ing­ness to vac­ci­nate in this coun­try seen such a wor­ry­ing de­cline over the last couple of months? We can't blame it all on the U.S. pres­i­dent. Trump has re­peated, re­it­er­ated and re­stated that the ar­rival of a vac­cine is im­mi­nent, and looks to it as some­thing of a magic bul­let in re­turn­ing life to its pre-pan­demic rhythm. Hardly the mes­sage that would dis­suade those lis­ten­ing to him from want­ing to be in­oc­u­lated.

Fur­ther, homegrown anti-vaxxers have worked to in­fect the Cana­dian pop­u­la­tion for years, by ques­tion­ing the ef­fi­cacy and safety of the flu shot and vac­ci­na­tions against com­mon and pre­ventable child­hood ill­nesses such as measles, mumps or rubella. Still, I be­lieve that the kinds of con­spir­acy the­o­ries in which Trump trades, com­bined with his chronic un­der­min­ing of real data, sea­soned ex­perts, and ac­tual sci­ence has had a knock-on ef­fect on both sides of the bor­der.

In Canada, win­ter re­ally is com­ing. Caseloads are once again spik­ing. In some prov­inces, test­ing is a mess. While the com­ing days will be dom­i­nated by dis­cus­sion of the pres­i­dent's sta­tus, as Cana­di­ans, let's hold on to just how much bet­ter we've done at fight­ing this vi­cious dis­ease than our neigh­bours to the south.

We can't af­ford not to.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada