A temporary medical facility set up at the Collingwood Royal Canadian Legion to handle overflow from the hospital during the pandemic is being wound down. The Collingwood General and Marine Hospital has operated the 18-bed Alternate Health Facility (AHF) in the legion’s Normandy Room since December 2020. The facility was used for patients who required transitional care or an alternative destination of care whose acute care needs have been met, but required transfer to rehabilitation, long-term care, a retirement home or other post-acute care services. According to a news release from the hospital, a review of the facility’s utilization has been undertaken, and effective Sept. 1, the hospital will not transfer patients to the AHF. Any remaining patients will be transitioned back to the hospital by Sept. 10. “As the economy continues with its reopening, the Collingwood Legion is looking to resume regular operations, and the hospital’s lease is expiring on Sept. 30,” the hospital stated in a news release. “CGMH recognizes the impact of the pandemic on our team and resulting challenges with Health Human Resources,” said hospital president and chief executive officer Norah Holder. “The opportunity to move valued team members back to the main site will provide some support in alleviating this issue. We look forward to their continuation as part of the CGMH team.” She added: “Operating the AHF was a tremendous team effort and we would like to thank all team members that were involved.”
Even as Ontarians between the ages of 12 and 17 are getting vaccinated against in ever-increasing numbers, medical professionals expect demand for testing in younger cohorts to rise when kids return to classrooms amid growing cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant. Provincial data shows that between Aug. 17, when children turning 12 this year were given the go-ahead to get the Pfizer vaccine, and Sept. 1, the vaccination rates for 12-17-year-olds rose from 69.8 per cent to 74.9 per cent for one shot, and from 56.5 per cent to . While this is undoubtedly good news for worried parents and educators watching daily cases climb just a , COVID cases in school-aged children are still expected to rise to the point that assessment centres will face increased pressure to test more. , released Wednesday, shows that a rapid rise in the number of seriously ill people needing hospital care is expected among the unvaccinated, as workplaces and schools reopen in September. The fourth wave will affect all age groups, with the potential to exceed ICU capacity, according to the modelling. At least two hospitals have opened up pediatric COVID assessment centres to brace for this , and at both, officials say they’re already seeing more kids coming with symptoms for testing. “What’s more unusual this time is that the demand started before schools were back in session,” said Karen Riddell, chief nursing executive at Windsor Regional Hospital, where a new clinic for kids and teens opened Tuesday. “But we are expecting once schools get back in that we will see even more.” Although older children are eligible for the Pfizer shot, those under 12 have no vaccine protection. While they are still most likely to have mild symptoms, even with the Delta variant, spikes in hospitalizations in the United States, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates, are worrying. Experts say school outbreaks are inevitable this fall and may result in entire classes being sent home, or even school closures in situations when many students are suspected to have the virus. If that comes to pass, pediatric assessment clinics will likely experience even more demand, especially given that the province has compared to the number of facilities earlier in the year. As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, 90 per cent of the appointment slots at Michael Garron Hospital’s pediatric clinic that day were filled. The east Toronto hospital has reopened its pediatric assessment centre, which temporarily closed in June, right next to the emergency department, in anticipation of increased COVID cases in young people throughout the fall. “The capacity in the system for assessments and testing is critical if we are to mitigate the risk of significant spread,” said Dr. Kyle Vojdani, emergency department chief and medical director at Michael Garron Hospital. He noted that he is particularly concerned with the small portion of children who can develop more serious illness requiring hospitalization. “Capacity within the system for pediatric admissions and pediatric clinical care is limited. That’s what worries me.” Vojdani added that Michael Garron’s pediatric clinic is part of a broader hospital strategy that includes in-school tests, increasing pediatric in-patient capacity and virtual assessments. In Windsor, where there are rising cases, hospitalizations and ICU numbers in general, the number of children and teens with symptoms getting tested has doubled over the last few weeks, said Riddell. The hospital is now testing an average of 40 to 50 kids per day. On Tuesday, 59 showed up at the new assessment centre, and another 24 at a different site. According to the most up-to-date data from , there are roughly 206 cases per 100,000 in kids and teens up to 19 years old. That’s the third-highest age group, behind people in their 20s (375) and 30s (351). In addition to getting tested at the Windsor assessment centre if they meet the provincial criteria, children can access a pediatrician in case they need minor treatment, Riddell said. Colourful murals make the space kid-friendly. If they test positive, then contact tracing can begin to stop the spread. “We just want to make sure that we’re able to respond quickly, and avoid some of the situations that we’re seeing in other jurisdictions, like down in the southern states, where they’re having very high rates of pediatric hospitalization and ICU stays, which is something that we have not seen in previous waves,” she added. The Star asked the Ministry of Health for a breakdown of vaccination rates for each age between 12 and 17 but was not provided with the data. Instead, a spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the province is focusing on a “last mile” strategy to reach people who still need shots. “This includes mobile clinics and community-based pop-ups, dedicated clinic days for families with people with disabilities, and town hall meetings in multiple languages,” said spokesperson Bill Campbell. Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, says there are a number of steps the education system could take that would cut down on spread of the Delta variant in classrooms. In addition to having all staff fully vaccinated, he says twice-weekly spit tests that teachers could administer and that labs could then test would be an excellent way to ensure high-quality surveillance. “I would argue that (unvaccinated students) merit it. Not only are they vulnerable, not only do they depend on us for their safety, they’ve got no agency in this whatsoever. “We know Delta is coming. This is not hypothetical. This is not a maybe. It’s coming for them. It has everywhere else.” Other steps schools could take to improve safety include installing air exchangers that bring in fresh air from outside for classrooms that do not have HVAC systems, using carbon dioxide monitors to measure how much exhaled stale air is in the room, and introducing KN95 masks for students and teachers. “I think if you’re really taking care of air quality I think that would be it,” Furness said. “If my kid’s school did that, I’d breathe easy so to speak.” Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: May Warren is a Toronto-based breaking news reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter:
Following days of demonstrations outside Ontario hospitals, the provincial Liberals are calling on Premier Doug Ford to take tougher action on pandemic protesters. The party released a on Sept. 14 and addressed a the next day urging him to adopt the measures laid out in the plan and meet with Ontario’s chiefs of police and opposition leaders to discuss other potential solutions to the problem of conspiracy theory and anti-vaccine protest groups. “When angry mobs assemble outside our hospitals, it’s time to say enough. Vulnerable cancer patients are being exposed to the angry unvaccinated, our exhausted front-line health-care heroes are being intimidated, and acts of aggression are occurring at an increasingly alarming rate across the province,” reads the letter signed by Ontario Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca. “The vaccinated majority are rightly discouraged and dismayed by these developments as case numbers continue to climb, and need to see strong leadership to combat radicalization.” The province has not taken any formal steps to address protests outside health-care facilities, but Deputy Premier Christine Elliott condemned the actions of demonstrators as “unfortunate” during an update on the province’s last mile vaccination strategy on Sept. 14. “This is very demoralizing to our front-line health-care workers who have been working flat out to save people’s lives for the last 18 months,” Elliott said. “It’s just very unfortunate that this is happening with the protesters, and we would ask them to please think about the great work our front-line health-care workers are doing and please stop these protests.” The plan calls on the province to adopt the following measures: Promoting vaccine acceptance and combating misinformation The plan calls on Ford to convene a meeting on the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police to discuss how to “protect communities from anti-vax abuse, harassment, violence and blocked access to services” while ensuring the right to public assembly is also protected. It also asks for the establishment of temporary exclusion zones around hospital entrances to help patients and staff move more freely in and out of hospitals. It calls for the province to work with the federal government to counter misinformation and disinformation regarding vaccines and the pandemic, invest in public health education and outreach for communities where vaccine confidence is low, and add requirements for the use of COVID-19 vaccine certificates as a regulation under the Emergency Act. Strengthening vaccine mandates The plan challenges Ford to remove “testing loopholes” for those without medical or Ontario Human Rights Code exemptions in vaccine mandates for health care and education workers; mandate vaccines on all provincially regulated trains and buses, for both passengers and operators; mandate vaccines for all employees of workplaces where customers are required to be vaccinated; and provide workers with 10 provincially funded paid sick days. It also calls on Ford to mandate vaccines for students born in 2009 or earlier and establish public health unit vaccine programs in every school. Preparing for the next phase of the pandemic The plan asks Ford to make pandemic recovery investments, including an increase in funding to colleges and universities to expand health-care programs, increased access to at-home testing for all Ontarians and increased support for COVID-19 burdened hospitals. It also calls for a comprehensive plan for the mass immunization of children born after 2009 and a revised timeline for increased capacities under the new vaccine certificate guideline, as well as additional financial support for small businesses.
Finally, it’s here: the great Canadian election debate over vaccination passports. Well, maybe it’s the beginning of one. Just short of two weeks into the campaign, divisions have emerged between three main parties on the question of what kind of vaccination proof is going to get Canadians past the pandemic. At this stage, the choice appears to boil down to this: one passport for the nation, many different versions or none at all. Justin Trudeau is in the “many” camp. The Liberals have now rolled out a proposed “proof of vaccination fund” for provinces to come up with their own systems of immunization ID. It’s not the pan-Canadian vaccination card that could be a political asset to Trudeau at this point in the election, but it is in keeping with his standard approach to COVID-19 relief: Ottawa pays, the provinces play. It was left to New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh to champion one national vaccine passport. “I think the federal government should just do it,” Singh told reporters on Friday. “Wouldn’t it be easier to just have one central document that we get from the federal government and we can use in any province we travel to?” The practical details of this plan were not immediately revealed by Singh. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, however, had even less to say about vaccination passports altogether. “If the provinces make decisions on proof of vaccinations, vaccine passports, we will support and respect what the provinces decide to do,” O’Toole said. That is not a position on vaccine passports. It is more of an evasion for now. So here’s another way to draw some lines around the three leaders’ opening positions on vaccination passports: NDP, easy to say; Liberals, hard to do; Conservatives, hard to say. The Canadian public is having an increasingly important conversation about whether vaccination passports would be practical — and it’s a conversation that should be finding its way into a serious federal election debate. In fact, the public and businesses may be out ahead of the politicians on this one, as people wrestle with how to navigate their way between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. For months, polls have been showing increasing approval for vaccination passports, which is creating a demand for some kind of proof of vaccination in all walks of life. In Ottawa, where I live, the idea of provinces going their own ways in issuing vaccination proof is a messy prospect, given how many people cross back and forth between Quebec and Ontario every day. Perhaps that’s one reason why Doug Ford held out for so long against some kind of certificates for Ontarians. Trudeau clearly relishes the prospect of painting Conservatives — whether it’s Ford or O’Toole — as passport-hesitant, which he equates with vaccine hesitancy and resistance to science in general. The Liberal leader has been shadowed on the road by an obnoxious group of anti-vaxxers who shout racist remarks, and Trudeau doesn’t mind being seen on the opposite side of that particularly toxic bundle of intolerance. The problem with the vaccination-proof fund is that it’s absolutely invisible to average voters. As I and others have argued, . Retired general Rick Hillier, formerly head of Ford’s vaccine task force, complained Friday on CBC Radio that Trudeau’s government was “too bureaucratic.” He was talking about the Canadian efforts in crumbling Afghanistan, but the criticism touches more largely on why the Liberals are having trouble making themselves heard in this election. A vaccination-passport fund. Too bureaucratic, maybe? After six years in government, Liberals know that they can’t just go out on the road and blue-sky about a national vaccination passport, as Singh did on Friday. Nor can Trudeau just say the provinces can go their own way, without any details on Ottawa’s role in the passport debate, as O’Toole has. But “it’s complicated” doesn’t make for a lively or creative discussion about what the post-pandemic future looks like — which is supposed to be the point of this election. Vaccinations are part of that immediate future and perhaps this emerging discussion on passports — one, many or none at all — may give Canadians some clue about why we’re in a campaign now. A debate over mandatory vaccinations might have done that too, but it too got bogged down in complications and non-answers all around in the opening days of the campaign. The first leaders’ TV debate is less than a week away. The unfolding discussion about vaccination passports might be a hint for where the debate could get interesting. Susan Delacourt is an Ottawa-based columnist covering national politics for the Star. Reach her via email: or follow her on Twitter: @susandelacourt
Barrie’s road work is ongoing throughout the year. Many of these projects will result in road closures for extended periods of time. Listed closure times are subject to change due to weather and other factors. Wellington St E : The City of Barrie Sanitary Crew requires a Full Road Closure on Wellington Street East between Oak Street and St Vincent Street, beginning at 7:00AM on Thursday, August 26, 2021, to 4:00PM on Friday, August 27, 2021, to repair a sanitary sewer lateral. No thru traffic. Due to unforeseen circumstances the full road closure will be in place over night and is tentatively scheduled to be completed by 4:00PM on Friday, August 27, 2021. Reid Dr : Eisses Brothers Excavating and their sub-contractors require a full road closure on Reid Drive between Caplan Avenue and Mapleview Drive West, beginning at 7:00AM on Wednesday, September 08, 2021, to 7:00PM on Friday, September 10, 2021, to perform site servicing works related to the construction of an industrial building. Detour route: Reid Drive – Mapleview Drive West – Veteran’s Drive – Caplan Avenue Collier St : The City of Barrie Horticulture Department requires daily partial lane shifts on Collier Street between Owen Street and Mulcaster Street from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM, on Friday, August 27, 2021, to perform horticulture median maintenance. Grove St E : Four Brothers Construction and their sub-contractors require a full road closure on Grove Street East between Davidson Street and Bothwell Crescent. Beginning at 7:00am on August 23, 2021, to 7:00pm on October 29, 2021, tentatively, to perform construction works related to the Sophia Creek Culvert Replacement. No thru traffic. Detour route: Grove Street East – Davidson Street – Rose Street – St Vincent Street – Grove Street East Mapleview Dr E : Condrain Group and their sub-contractors requires Alternating Lane Closures/Restrictions/Shifts on Mapleview Drive East between St. Paul’s Crescent and Royal Jubilee Drive, beginning at 7:00AM on July 28, 2021, to 7:00PM on September 03, 2021, for works relating to the widening of Mapleview Drive East. As you enjoy your drive through Barrie, try out some of these useful apps: 1. Gas Buddy is an app that provides live gas prices at any gas station to help you save money 2. Waze is a traffic and navigation app that reports live road information including accidents and hazards 3. Roadtrippers is a must-have for when you plan your next road trip; it helps you discover local diners, tourist attractions and even tourist traps! This list of road closures and restrictions is updated as new closure details are provided. Source: This story was auto-generated with information provided by the .
A 34-year-old woman reported missing to Collingwood OPP has been found, police said.
WARNING: Some readers may find the content of this story disturbing. A coroner’s report detailing the autopsy of the body of Justin Evans has ruled the 22-year-old’s death as undetermined and reveals new evidence into what could have happened to the Gravenhurst man. The post-mortem was performed May 21, 2021 by the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario, at the edge of a swamp in a wooded area that borders Muskoka Mobile Home Park where he lived. He had been missing since Dec. 12, 2020. The cause of death is listed as “unascertained.” OPP have said and Evans’ family said police told them he took his own life. DECOMPOSITION RESULTS IN UNDETERMINED FINDINGS In the report, released to Evans’ mother Jaime Wise and shared with Metroland, investigating coroner Dr. Scott Whynot determined that due to advanced decomposition of the head and neck area the cause of death could not be determined. “The postmortem scavenging artefacts to the neck and chest area may have obscured some injuries that could have been fatal,” the report said. Evans’ body was found May 19, lying face up, “partially submerged” in water and “partially entangled in tree roots at the side of a pond,” the report details. He was identified through dental records. Located with the body was a “bag of grassy appearing substance” and an “empty case of headphones,” the report said. Two “superficial, likely non-fatal” wounds were found on the left forearm, each 7.5 centimetres in length, located on the radial side of the wrist, cutting tendons but no major blood vessels, according to the coroner. On May 22, the day after the post-mortem, the report states a “rusted Exacto knife” was retrieved from the water near where the body was found. “The possibility of drowning also cannot be excluded,” the report said, adding no significant natural disease was identified and toxicology testing conducted by Dr. Liza Boucher was “non-contributory.” A CT scan found no further injury to the body. REPORT DETAILS NEW EVIDENCE A narrative of the history of the case is included in the coroner’s report, citing “a neighbour had committed suicide and in an audio suicide note seemed to take responsibility for Mr. Evans’ disappearance, though did not give any specific details regarding his death or the location of his body.” In a second reference to the incident the report states that, “a neighbour committed suicide and in an audio suicide note he said: ‘I am responsible for Justin’s death’.” Metroland has confirmed through Evans’ family and multiple residents of Muskoka Mobile Home Park that Lucas Ulbinas lived next door to Evans. Among a list of evidence included in the report are items taken from Ulbinas’ home, Evans’ home and a shed located between the two where “significant amounts of blood” were found in December 2020. An online obituary states Ulbinas, a Hamilton native, died Jan. 6, 2021. in connection with the case. The charge has not been proven and . Wise and her family are somewhat relieved at the report’s findings; . The report states “there was no known history of suicidal ideation.” “The mental anguish that they’ve put us through,” she said of the police suicide theory, “it just breaks you on the inside.” “There’s so much that (police) are never going to be able to answer,” she added. The phone number for the branch is The adult crisis line in Muskoka is and the children’s crisis line for those 18 and under is The Kids Help Phone number is
This just in: Ontario’s Medical Officers of Health have come together to demand mandatory inoculation at all colleges and universities. That means “full vaccination against be required for all individuals involved in any in-person activities on campus (students, staff, faculty, contractors and visitors).” Is this a clarion call from medical doctors with full authority, at long last? Not so fast. This latest public exhortation for vaccination comes from the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health, which speaks on behalf of all 34 public health units across the province. But their collective call for new requirements is not to be confused with the conspicuous silence from the chief medical officer of health who outranks them, Dr. Kieran Moore. Before being elevated to Ontario’s highest medical perch, Dr. Moore was part of that council of 34 physicians, back when he ran Kingston’s health unit. But he is no longer in that position, nor is he on the same page. As of last June, Dr. Moore presides over the province at large. And with his new writ, he won’t commit — wedded as he is to the proposition of being half-pregnant on COVID-19 vaccines. Thanks to his new working relationship with Premier , Dr. Moore has lost his voice. While both of them proclaim fidelity to the people of this province, they seem reluctant to accept an obvious truth: You cannot be half-pregnant, especially not in mid-pandemic. The problem with being half-pregnant is that you are trying to have it both ways yet satisfying no one. As an example, consider this contradiction from Ford and his chief medical officer of health as COVID-19 overwhelms us: Everyone should be vaccinated. And yet everyone need not be vaccinated. Or ponder this proposition from the premier and the good doctor: We must do everything possible to prevent lockdowns. But not the one proven thing — mandatory vaccinations — that would preclude lockdowns. This disconnect on inoculations is intellectual dishonesty. It is also political cowardice and policy incoherence. Perhaps that’s why the fantasy of being half-pregnant is not recognized in the medical literature yet endures in our political nomenclature. Ford’s inability to lead the way is unsurprising, given his mealy-mouthed meandering for months on end — from mask mandates to vaccine requirements. Dr. Moore’s timidity is no less a disappointment, given the high expectations over his appointment. In the same week that the province’s 34 public health units were clamouring for mandatory campus rules — with nearly 1 million people “required to submit proof of vaccination” — Dr. Moore was stubbornly with the full weight of his office. With waves of students converging on university and college campuses over the next few days, and a fourth wave of COVID-19 looming, his reticence is matched only by the premier’s hesitance. The trend lines are inexorable. As long as our vaccination uptake stalls, infections will soar and lockdowns will follow. That’s why have recently embraced vaccine passports as a first step in validating inoculations. That’s why the federal government has promised an international verification framework. That none of these systems are yet in place is an indictment of our , but at least these other governments are getting with the program. Ontario’s refusal to even explore these options is bizarrely self-defeating. “We aren’t doing it — simple as that,” Ford announced last month. “We aren’t going to have a split society.” All these weeks later, it has become painfully obvious that society is increasingly split — and sliced and diced and divided along demographic lines. For the young adults heading to university and college this year, and the older adults who keep those post-secondary institutions running, the reluctance to embrace science is confounding. It is also worrying for parents like me who are dropping off their kids on campus, and seeing up close just how closely they’ll be congregating with other students and staff in classrooms and labs. Without coherent guidance from the government, public institutions and private businesses are making it up as they go along — or making do by doing nothing. That leaves workplaces unsafe, campuses unclear and companies uncertain. Municipalities are also at sea, imploring Ford to set a province-wide standard to avoid a patchwork of vaccine mandates. The premier keeps ducking, just as he did last year by refusing to make masks mandatory, instead fobbing it off on local councils (he dutifully donned a mask in public, but without having to wear the decision). That’s not leadership. That’s showmanship. To its credit, Ontario’s Chamber of Commerce has taken the initiative — seeking legal guidance on how its member employers can deal with the challenges. To their discredit, some labour leaders are defending vocal anti-vax dissenters instead of advocating for the collective rights of all union members to a safe workplace — a principle that cannot be compromised. Against that backdrop, we need a government that can backstop the province. Instead, Ontario’s leadership vacuum has become the perfect incubator for a pandemic — and a leading indicator for inaction. Martin Regg Cohn is a Toronto-based columnist focusing on Ontario politics and international affairs for the Star. Follow him on Twitter:
Vaccination policies will soon come into effect at hospitals across Ontario, and the key decision will be whether vaccines will become mandatory for health-care workers. Stevenson Memorial Hospital (SMH) in Alliston has been working on its policy since the province’s chief medial officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, issued a directive Aug. 17 requiring all hospitals, home- and community-care service providers, and ambulance services to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy in place by Sept. 7. Moore said this directive is the bare minimum, and organizations may go beyond this measure by making vaccines mandatory. The Toronto University Health Network and Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario have already stated vaccines will be mandatory for staff unless a person is medically exempt from receiving one. It remains to be seen if vaccines will become mandatory for staff at SMH. “We take this directive very seriously and have been providing educational resources, regular updates on local vaccination clinics, and encouraging staff to provide their vaccination status to our Occupational Health Department since vaccines have come available to health-care workers early this year,” SMH president and CEO Jody Levac said in a written statement provided to Simcoe.com. Levac said the health and safety of staff, patients and members of the community is “paramount” and the hospital will “fully comply with the directive” for vaccine mandates and regular testing for those who are not vaccinated or fully vaccinated. “Our goal is 100 per cent compliance,” he said. The hospital declined to tell Simcoe.com what percentage of its staff has been vaccinated at this stage. “We are regularly updating our staff vaccination status through Occupational Health, and are concerned with releasing it at this time due to accuracy as it changes daily,” Levac said. “It is possible that some of our staff have not provided us with their vaccine confirmation. This is a high priority as we look to implement our COVID-19 vaccination policy in the coming weeks.” The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario and the Ontario Medical Association are just some of the groups that have called on the province to make vaccines mandatory for health-care workers. Vaccines are strongly encouraged at local long-term-care homes and retirement homes, but they have not yet been made mandatory for existing staff. According to the latest figures provided by the County of Simcoe, 96 per cent of the 1,000 employees who work in senior services received their first dose, and about 90 per cent are fully vaccinated. At Simcoe Manor in Beeton, about 93 per cent of Simcoe Manor staff have received one dose, and about 88 per cent are fully vaccinated. The county updated its hiring policies earlier this year, making it mandatory for every new employee to be fully vaccinated. All volunteers and students are also required to have both shots. At Kingsmere Retirement Residence in Alliston, more than 70 per cent of staff have received at least one dose, according to Sienna Senior Living spokesperson Nadia Daniell-Colarossi. She said the company’s overall staff vaccination rate is close to 90 per cent. “Sienna Senior Living supports the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s advocacy on mandatory vaccines for all health-care workers while we continue with our robust vaccine campaign for team members,” Daniell-Colarossi said in a statement. The company announced Aug. 26 that vaccinations for staff members would be mandatory. As of July 1 of this year, she said, any team member who has not received at least one dose of the vaccine is required to provided a doctor’s note explaining their medical exemption, as well as participate in an educational program, and to be tested for COVID-19 at the start of every shift.
Alberta is burning, and it is one of the worst kinds of tragedy. On Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney said ICUs could be as few as , and so, he had to act. Saskatchewan, next door, is not far behind. It will still get worse. Like Ontario’s , the worst tragedies are the ones that could have been avoided. Alberta’s fourth wave has been a deliberate dereliction of governance, but it comes after three waves’ worth of lessons and in the era of abundant vaccines; it is the least forgivable failure of Canada’s . And because there is an on, it became an election issue. But this should have been an election about the pandemic all along, and maybe it finally is. Forget the one-day back and forth. Yes, the Liberals and NDP Conservative leader Erin O’Toole. Yes, O’Toole did his best, amid repeated questions, to avoid acknowledging that Alberta specifically existed at all. The pandemic, though, should have been the defining issue of the campaign. There are so many problems in this country that need fixing, from our shameful treatment of the Indigenous population to an aging population to unaffordable housing to whatever the hell happens if the United States fails as a democracy. Canada has been sheltered by a stable partner for a long time, and those days could be numbered. The pandemic, though, has been a fundamental test of how a government should work, and how well it does. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone messes up. You can argue the Liberals have been too timid in managing the pandemic, maybe too deferential to the provinces, too shoddy on borders. Jamming 500 people into a room in Brampton the other night — which was technically in keeping with capacity, though distancing is a problem everywhere these days — looked desperate. This election could have waited, too. But the Liberals also ran an immensely successful vaccine procurement program, and without actually being in charge of health care, the Safe Restart Agreement attempted to tie the every province needed to actual pandemic response. The Liberals are in favour of vaccine mandates; they have not pushed provinces to reopen too soon. In Canada we often measure by a mediocre bar, and all you can hope is that sometimes the bar is cleared. That’s the Liberals, for the most part. The alternative is far worse, though, and the fact that this election was not about the defining catastrophe of our lifetime is baffling. Canada’s political media often treats Liberals and Conservatives like Coke and Pepsi — the NDP is Orange Crush, clearly, and British Columbia has its own pandemic peculiarities — and collapses the difference into scoreboard-watching talk about wedge issues. The Liberals have played their part in this election with talk of guns, or abortion. Which, to be clear, are actual issues. But on the pandemic, it shouldn’t take Kenney’s Alberta meltdown to point out that certain Conservative politicians have been the biggest pandemic problem in the country, and that the federal Conservatives aren’t equipped to deal with any of it. It’s not just that Erin O’Toole endorsed Alberta’s road to ruin. It’s not just that he showed up at the Alberta Masque of the Red Death Stampede as Kenney flipped pancakes, declared it the best summer ever, and proclaimed restrictions were gone for good. It’s not just that he tacitly endorsed it as Kenney’s team sold Best Summer Ever merch and fundraised off opposition to vaccine passports, and snidely derided the doctors and journalists who disagreed as fear-mongering. It turns out the . And it’s not just that O’Toole refuses to acknowledge Alberta’s current tragedy. The notion that there might have been a tacit understanding between the federal CPC and the provincial United Conservative Party that restrictions could be delayed until next week is disturbingly plausible. But too often the federal Conservatives don’t seem to understand what’s happening, or to be playing to the worst of their audience. On March 29 of this year, Conservative shadow health critic Michelle Rempel Garner published an in the Toronto Sun urging the federal government to chart a path out of lockdowns. Within two weeks, Ontario was in its own of Alberta’s , and in utter crisis. They may just be reading the wrong newspapers. The differences matter, because the differences tell. Alberta and Saskatchewan have finally given in to vaccine passports, despite being the two most vaccine-hesitant provinces, but faced with the People’s Party of Canada as a potential lunatic threat on its far-right edge, O’Toole is still opposed to vaccine mandates, and declares vaccination to be a . It was five days ago that O’Toole said partially vaccinated candidates could campaign in long-term care homes. When you’re beholden to the wrong base, things can become a . All these are defining ways to view not just a pandemic, but a country. Do we have responsibility towards a shared society? With climate change arriving, do we want a government that at the least understands how a crisis works? Instead, Canada held a normal election, if with an extra to it, and either one of the two main parties could still win. Alberta is a warning, as Ontario was, and as Saskatchewan is, too. Kenney ascribed some of his inaction to the notion that not enough Albertans — his base, specifically — would comply with a renewal of restrictions. He probably could have said the same for caucus and cabinet members. When you have to negotiate with a lunatic fringe suddenly you’re closing the playgrounds or removing masks. Doug Ford isn’t the only premier who has avoided leading until he had to. And so Alberta watched the fire sweep in from the horizon, and Kenney’s government was too stupid or arrogant or afraid of its own constituents to do anything but let it burn. At some point bad enough governance can cross the line to something monstrous, and it’s not a game. This was an election in a pandemic. It should have been an election about the pandemic, too. Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: