OTTAWA -- For far too long in this pandemic, the light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train wreck.

Today, there’s reason to hope that the light is actually a way out of the darkness.

When vaccination clinics swung into arm-jabbing action this morning, they reached the milestone of Canada inching ahead of America in first-dose vaccination levels.

It’s an incredible accomplishment for a country without vaccine production to have even partially-inoculated almost half its population in less than six months. On that score, the federal government can take a procurement bow.

But it should also serve as a catalyst for the federal government to replace the politics of fear with policies of hope.

In Ottawa on Thursday there was no sign to mark this dramatic pivot of coronavirus fortunes.

The Twitter feeds of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers, which never fail to hail the most obscure occasion, were silent on Canada’s dramatic surge into the North American first-dose vaccination lead.

Trudeau merely announced another month-long extension to the U.S. border closure while his health officials decreed that Canadians just slipping into the U.S. for an hour-long vaccination shot would still have to quarantine upon their return.

That’s just crazy, particularly when the public is increasingly mad as hell at unreasonable behavioral straight-jacketing and increasingly unlikely to take it any longer.

Mercifully, some provinces are now moving in the right and cautious direction.

The muddled Ontario government, which put the ‘mess’ into COVID-19 ‘messaging’, released a forward-looking action plan Thursday rooted in vaccination progress instead of regressive damage control optics.

Ontario’s mostly-missing premier has removed the handcuffs on outdoor activities like golf and tennis this weekend, which were ridiculous overkill even at the peak of the third wave a month ago, and Doug Ford linked further relaxations in three gradual stages linked to vaccination rates.

That echoes Saskatchewan, with first introduced a common-sense plan using vaccination rates to guide the reopening.

Joining the public push to shift toward normalization is a business alliance of 60 leaders, which demanded the prime minister stop dithering and produce a coherent reopening blueprint.

Trudeau’s ‘one-dose summer, two-dose fall’ quip was fine as a daily soundbite but, as usual, was devoid of useful details.

The frustrated business community wants more from the prime minister to help guidepost them to a recovery rollout.

Then came an unusual indication of how slow the federal foot-dragging has become as Canada accelerates toward a new normal on the horizon.

Canada’s privacy commissioners, recognizing an inevitability the federal government has not yet embraced, issued their guidelines for vaccinate passports for travel, a concept the government has not even approved.

Clearly, it’s time the federal government joined the rest of Canadians walking into a bright light beyond this pandemic.

The draconian age of night curfews, provincial boundaries hardened into police-guarded borders and neighbours snitching on social gatherings is, thankfully, nearing an end.

Backed by the vaccine enthusiasm of Canadians, whose hesitancy to take the shot is barely a third of what polls show Americans feel, our COVID-19 case counts will soon collapse to become their envy.

Canada suddenly finds itself in a better position than most countries to open up a new normal in a matter of weeks, if not months.

But to take full advantage of endless possibilities, this federal government has to stop engaging in fear factors and start raising hope.

That’s the bottom line.