Is Democracy a Swine Flu Risk Factor?

By now Canadians are well aware of the warning from our conservative government that an election could destabilize our fragile yet “recovering” economy. Now, in an unprecedented show of bipartisan cooperation from the far left, the Federal N.D.P. has given us yet another reason to fear the ballot box this fall: the dreaded swine flu. Federal N.D.P. health critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North) wrote the following letter to chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand:

Dear Sir,

H1N1 Preparedness & Canadian Federal Election I write to enquire, given the possibility of a federal election this fall, about the plans and preparations that Elections Canada is taking regarding H1N1. As you are no doubt aware, experts expect a strong resurgence in H1N1 infections in the coming months, with high incidences in some communities, including remote Aboriginal communities. An election poses significant potential public health risks. Large public events, canvassing and other typical campaign activities, not to mention polling booths and long line-ups to vote on election day, all result in a great deal of contact between members of the public. In the event of a fall election, what measures are Elections Canada planning to safeguard public health and to ensure Canadians who contract the virus are not disenfranchised? Yours sincerely,

Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North)
Health Critic
New Democratic Party of Canada

Clearly our defence against the H1N1 virus is incongruent with the defence of our civil liberties. Canvassing, voting, gathering in large groups — is this the time for such flag waving eccentricities? Would it not be more prudent to remain calmly in our homes until we have received our vaccines and are told it is safe to come out?

In February of 1775, as part of his notes for a proposition at the Pennsylvania Assembly, Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” But this is 2009, and we have an economic crisis and, we are told, a pandemic to deal with. How times have changed.