The World Forum - April 22nd, 2024

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Think Canada's pandemic response was better than the U.S.? Think again


When it comes to health care, Canadians only seem to care about one thing: Are we better than the United States?

As long as we “beat” the U.S., we remain smug about our performance, although this attitude can be hard to square with the tens of thousands of Canadians who get quick access to top-level care in the US each year, or the snowbirds vaccinated for COVID weeks or months ahead of their stay-at-home peers.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute took aim at Canadian smugness recently with its COVID Misery Index. Using public data, researchers compared 15 developed countries on 16 measures grouped into three categories: Disease Misery, Response Misery, and Economic Misery.

How are we doing?Overall Canada continues to rank in the lower third — 11th out of 15, and shockingly to some, two places behind the much-maligned United States.

While Canada had fewer cases and deaths than some, and so performed better on the Disease Misery category, our total excess deaths from all causes, including among younger Canadians, was relatively high. Because of Canada’s chronically inadequate health care capacity, we would have suffered much more had we seen more COVID cases, and one could make the case that we had to be extra stringent on lockdowns because we had unacceptably low spare capacity to deal with such a health care crisis compared to our peers.