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Are you fed up with lockdowns?

After a year fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians are watching businesses close, a population burnt out, and a deficit spiraling out of control - all in the name of lockdowns. Now, a growing number of public health experts are questioning the strategy. If healthy debate is a necessary part of the job held by politicians, why is Maxime Bernier the only leader willing to speak out on the issue?

As we move into a second year of lockdowns, it is important to remember who is paying the price: young people. According to Statistics Canada, from February to December of last year, youth employment was down 10 percent, a greater drop than any other demographic group.

In December alone, a second wave of lockdowns cost 63,000 Canadians their jobs, 11,900 alone in Alberta. And of these 63,000 jobs lost, more than 40% were youth. A recent report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses suggests that as many as one in six small businesses could be forced to close permanently.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 40% of Canadians have reported a negative effect on their mental health since the pandemic began, a rate that rises to 64% when limited to unemployed people. Even worse, ten per cent of Canadians have contemplated suicide in the same time frame; nearly quadruple the pre-pandemic rate of 2.6%.

But are lockdowns necessary? An increasing chorus of public health experts are questioning their effectiveness in comparison to the toll they take; not just in terms of economics, but public health.

According to Dr. Richard Schabas, who served as Ontario’s chief medical officer of health from 1987 to 1997, the benefits are questionable.

“Two recent studies on the effectiveness of lockdown show that it has, at most, a small COVID mortality benefit compared to more moderate measures. Both studies warned about the excessive cost of lockdowns,” Schabas said in an open letter. “Lockdown was never part of our planned pandemic response nor is it supported by strong science.”

If the jury is still out on the effectiveness of lockdowns, why aren't our leaders listening? Provincial governments are taking their cues from a Prime Minister happy to keep people locked down while he spins up out of control welfare programs. Even in provinces run by so-called Conservative governments, critics of lockdown are painted as dangerous heretics.

“The media and politicians have become attached to case counts as the only way to measure the progress of the disease and the effectiveness of our attempts to stop it.” says Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada. “But there is a lot missing from a simple number of new cases. How many businesses had to close? How many relationships have ended? How many Canadians have turned to addiction or depression as a result of these lockdowns, to say nothing of the non COVID medical issues related to delayed surgeries, check-ups, and lack of physical exercise?”

According to Bernier, a more compassionate and effective approach would be to focus our efforts on protecting the elderly and the vulnerable, while allowing the rest of the population some degree of safe normalcy.

“We can open businesses safely for people who are at less risk, and we can allow those people to take responsibility for their own actions,” he says. “Instead of spreading their attention across the whole population, governments should be putting a higher priority on keeping those at risk safe.”

Bernier’s arguments might not be politically correct, but they are supported by a growing number of experts. Over 13,000 medical and public health scientists, and over 40,000 medical practitioners around the world have sounded the alarm on lockdown measures, releasing a statement called the Great Barrington Declaration that criticizes lockdowns as disproportionately affecting youth, the poor, and the working class, with negligible benefit in fighting the disease.

It is a valid criticism, and Canadians should be worried about the lack of effective debate in our political system.

“Conservative Party politicians are so scared of criticism, they refuse to act as a check on the approach Justin Trudeau is taking” says Bernier. “Experts are opposed to the direction the Federal Government is giving the provinces, but Erin O’Toole is nowhere to be found, even though he leads the official opposition.”

Indeed, since the beginning of the pandemic, the Conservative Party has been unwilling or unable to hold the government accountable, not just for their response to the Pandemic, but for silencing critics and suffocating dissent.

“The Liberals want to keep us locked up while they use the crisis created by their own measures as an excuse to expand the welfare state and explode the deficit, and the Conservative Party is happy to march along with them,” says Bernier.

The Canadian political landscape is undergoing a major reorientation. O’Toole has described his Conservative Party as a centrist party, leaving millions of right-leaning Canadians out in the cold. For Canadians unsatisfied with the direction this country is headed, there is one option that stands out from the rest: Maxime Bernier and the People’s Party of Canada.

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