By Andrew Allison, Chief Executive
Whilst the UK has moved away from lockdowns, restrictions, Covid passports, and the mandatory wearing of face coverings, both the Canadian and New Zealand governments are continuing to do the opposite.
A convoy of tens of thousands of Canadian truckers moved its way across the country last week and arrived in the capital Ottawa yesterday. Truckers are protesting against vaccine mandates and other policies implemented by Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. His response was to insult them and then go into hiding. He described them as a "small fringe minority" and people who hold unacceptable views.
Nova Scotia has enacted emergency legislation prohibiting those protesting against COVID-19 measures from blocking the Trans-Canada Highway near the New Brunswick boundary. The Emergency Management Act also applies to people who stop or gather alongside the highway. You can find out more by watching this interview on Neil Oliver's show in GB News last night. In Quebec, those who are not vaccinated will be charged a health tax.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, a country which officially abandoned its zero-Covid policy last year, there is very little evidence that the country has moved on from March 2020, despite around 90 per cent of those living in the country being double jabbed. A two-tier society is being developed by Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, (just as it is by Trudeau in Canada) where those who are vaccinated have more freedom than those who are not.
Dan Wooton, writing in the Daily Mail, notes that "after just nine confirmed Omicron cases, Ardern plunged the entire country into red alert, a form of lockdown that bans large gatherings, enforces mask mandates, makes Covid passports compulsory if you want to live normally as part of a 'two-tier society', and reintroduces work from home orders." That sounds very much like a zero-Covid policy to me - one which cannot and will not work if New Zealand wants to get back to anything like normality.
Families cannot reunite, even if a parent is dying. As Dan Wootton notes:
"Each month, around 50,000 desperate Kiwis – many trapped overseas in countries where their visa has run out or desperate to see sick relatives – have been forced to sign up online to enter a waiting room where they are placed in a virtual queue. Only around 1,500 'winners' a month gain tickets.
"And that's just the start of it. Once you 'win' the lottery, you have to pay for an exorbitantly expensive flight and then about £1,500 to spend 14 days in government run hotel quarantine, where the army has been sent in to ensure no one absconds."
One would think that when governments react in these ways, completely dividing society, and destroying businesses and livelihoods, that a majority would stand up and say no. Sadly, this is not the case. The vast majority of Canadians and New Zealanders support their governments. One can speculate as to the reasons why, but I would put fear at the top of the list. Jacinda Ardern once told New Zealanders (and I will never forget this) to "dismiss anything else, we will continue to be your single source of truth.” She needs to be reminded that George Orwell, in his famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, was issuing a warning, not offering a blueprint.
Justin Trudeau called a snap general election last year. Despite his draconian policies, he remained Prime Minister, with the results largely unchanged from the general election in 2019. New Zealanders went to the polls in October 2020. Jacinda Ardern recorded a landslide victory. You reap what you sow.
I used to think that both Canada and New Zealand were populated by freedom loving people. I have been disabused of that opinion. We have endured much during the last couple of years in the UK, but we have not gone anywhere near the level of restrictions imposed in New Zealand. We have gone too far in mandating vaccinations for health care and NHS workers, but we do not suffer from the levels of authoritarianism currently being displayed in Canada. I am concerned, though, that if Boris Johnson had followed the examples set by Trudeau and Ardern, too many people would have supported him. I would like to think that we would have protested in sufficiently large numbers, but I honestly don't think that we would have done.
There are many other governments in the world who continue to strip freedoms away from their citizens - some are very close to home in Europe, and I haven't even touched on Australia. I can't say that I am grateful to Boris Johnson for returning freedoms which were not his to take away. The way we allowed people to die alone was disgraceful. Allowing elderly and vulnerable people to exist without any meaningful human interaction was cruel. Sweden didn't close schools, but we deprived children of their education for months on end. In the first lockdown, children's playgrounds were closed. Millions more are now suffering from mental health problems. The number of people who will die from preventable illnesses is still yet unknown. Having said that, when I look at what is still being endured by people in other countries, I am grateful that I live in the UK - warts and all.