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Don Martin: Trudeau didn't exaggerate. This was a helluva hard day.
OTTAWA -- In normal times, amid the usual ebb and flow of bad news, they call it ‘bundling’ or ‘taking out the trash’.
When government seeks to blunt a large rollout of negative news, they crunch it all together and shove it out the door as one steaming, smelly pile of …. well … stuff.
Communications theory has it that the one-day sum of all those lousy headlines is better than any spread-out coverage through individual stories.
But Thursday’s news flow was a three-dumpster-fire trash-takeout for the ages, a bombardment of unplanned bundling that defined the scope, scale and severity of the pandemic in a series of devastating charts and slides.
And it all hit the airwaves before sunrise on the west coast, where residents should’ve immediately self-isolated in bed with only meditation playlists for company.
The missing federal COVID-19 modelling, which had Prime Minister Justin Trudeau moistly muttering feeble excuses about for weeks, was the most horrific release.
For the chief public health officer to define a "best-case" scenario as 11,000 to 22,000 Canadian deaths, a lowest-life-loss massacre only achieved by the sacrifice of normal freedoms for an indefinite time, is truly frightening.
It makes it almost laughable that the prime minister was warning us Wednesday to brace for a difficult day based on terrible employment numbers.
Compared to figures showing at the very least another 10,500 Canadians will die this year from the virus, you’d have to argue Trudeau missed the headline in defining what a hard day looks like.
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Still, while it sounds trite, every one of those million job losses in the StatCan survey was a frightened person who might never reclaim that paycheque again.
That’s a very difficult comprehension to grasp, particularly given the stunning speed of the workforce collapse.
The headline from the February labour survey from StatCan gently noted “the unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points to 5.6%.”
The March survey identified an unemployment rate of 7.8 per cent, “the largest one-month increase since comparable data became available in 1976”.
When EI recipients are combined with those collecting most of their salary from a government subsidy, this pandemic has essentially forced the temporary nationalization of the Canadian workforce.
Finally, to complete this trifecta of trauma, a figure was rolled out that will haunt the budget books for decades to come.
The parliamentary budget officer issued a best-guess deficit forecast of $184 billion-and-rising for next year, the highest deficit percentage of GDP since 1982 when another Trudeau was at the prime ministerial helm.
Yes, to understate, it was a helluva hard day.
While the default position after such an overdose of negativity would be to critique the government for failing to fend off the pandemic earlier or lamenting the cost of the cure to future generations, this is not the time.
We, the people, are the problem now. We, the isolated, are the only route to a solution. The government is merely the safety net to prevent a complete societal meltdown.
That means accepting that dealing with coronavirus will be the only spring fever this year, putting us all into a family-only quarantine featuring an outbreak of puzzles and board games while studying YouTube instructions on cutting your own hair, which will undoubtedly end badly for me.
But this being a Christian holiday rooted in death and resurrection, perhaps these reports are a eulogy of sorts before Canadian lifestyles and the economy come back to life.
After all, it can’t get any worse, right?
Let’s cling to that hope with all our hearts.