Canada

Raymond J. de Souza: Lining up to show COVID travel documents is the road to serfdom

Upon arrival in Canada, the government has deployed an army of its own officials to register passengers online and then to administer tests

Article content

The federal government announced the opening of the border to fully-vaccinated Americans on August 9, while holding off on other countries until September 7, arguing that the intervening weeks will allow for protocols at the border to be streamlined.

Advertisement

Article content

Good luck with that. Have federal officials observed what is actually going on at the border now?

Canadians wishing to fly out of Canada need to show a negative COVID-19 test before embarking. Who checks that? The airlines. Who else could do it? The Canadian government does not have agents monitoring passengers leaving the country.

That means that a check-in agent, whose previous training was in determining allowable baggage limits, now, with understandably no expertise or experience in the matter, has to evaluate whatever documents passengers produce. If you are in Toronto and you have a standard Ontario Health COVID test, that would be easy enough. But you are not supposed to have that standard Ontario Health result because the public health system is not supposed to do COVID tests for travel purposes. So the airline agent will likely be confronted with a document from a private lab, each one with its own format.

Advertisement

Article content

On the other end, the customs and border official in, say, Lisbon, is supposed to monitor vaccination status. Is she familiar with documents issued by the health system in Nova Scotia, or an Indigenous reserve in British Columbia? What about a Walgreen’s vaccine record from Colorado? So unless the passenger himself reveals a lack of vaccination, whatever document is produced is waved through. And if whatever document is waved through, why require it in the first place?

On the return it is even more absurd. Canada requires a negative COVID test for entry, and is particular about which kind. PCR is is the favoured flavour, not antigen. That means another airline agent must determine — in English or French, no matter if his first language is Polish or German — whether the right result was obtained at the right time with the right kind of test. Numerous acquaintances confirm what one would expect: everyone is waved through.

Advertisement

Article content

A friend had the recent experience of gate agents, while boarding hundreds of passengers, attempting to verify (for the second time) COVID test documents. In a process that is designed to work at the speed of scanning a barcode, it quickly degenerated in clogged chaos; thus as a piece of paper or mobile phone was waved in the general direction of the gate agent, everyone was good to go.

I have no great trouble with this. Sometimes — like riding the streetcar or visiting a national park — the honour system is really the best way to proceed, with occasional spot checks to encourage compliance. The government having dragooned airline personnel into an impossible job, the honour system is what we have got anyway.

Upon arrival in Canada, the government has deployed an army of its own officials to register passengers online and then to administer tests. It moves admirably quickly, given what is being done, but still takes over an hour or more to get through a single flight. That’s only with Canadians returning home at the moment; imagine the queues when Americans and others arrive. And this is to test the already-vaccinated, who are extremely unlikely to pose a health threat.

Advertisement

Article content

All of this reveals what Friedrich Hayek taught us long ago. The 1974 winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, Hayek was among the foremost advocates of the free society. But Hayek’s more relevant work now was on the simple impossibility of central planners knowing all the information necessary to plan for the millions of economic exchanges that take place daily.

Observing the inability of the state to accurately determine even a fairly discrete set of data — test results and vaccination status — is oddly comforting, a confirmation that Hayek was correct. Confirmation should not be needed after the failed experiments in central planning of the past — or present, in Venezuela and Cuba.

The only way for the government to implement a robust monitoring system for travel would be to deploy dozens of agents to every international airport and border, charged with adequately examining and verifying the documents needed. That would be expensive, and would mean hours-long waits in the terminal or at the border. Queuing to be subject to state monitoring is the hallmark of the “road to serfdom” Hayek warned against.

Travel has been long marked by the faux theatre of security arrangements that do not really secure — off with the belt, empty that water bottle — but generate plenty of quasi-intimidating activity. COVID theatre has marked a good deal of our pandemic policy for the past sixteen months. Now with international travel opening up, the performance has come to the airport. It isn’t pretty.

National Post

The big issues are far from settled. Sign up for the NP Comment newsletter, NP Platformed.

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Checkout latest world news below links :
World News || Latest News || U.S. News

Source link

Back to top button
SoundCloud To Mp3