The gravest threat facing Canada and the world today is not terrorism.
Nor is it Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The gravest threat is a deadly virus known as Ebola. It is leapfrogging across West Africa at an accelerating rate.
It has killed almost 2,500 and is expected to kill thousands more.
Left unchecked, it is only a matter of time until the virus reaches North America. Given the incubation period of the disease, a traveller suffering from Ebola could pass through Canadian airport border controls without being aware he was infected and without showing any symptoms.
The World Health Organization says that up to 90 per cent of those who contract the disease will die.
The Americans have belatedly come to understand the seriousness of this epidemic. They have beefed up aid to West African nations such as Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Even cash-strapped Cuba is sending 165 medical workers to West Africa to help stop the epidemic before it crosses the Atlantic.
Yet Canada’s government treats this outbreak as a problem that has little to do with us.
“This is a major epidemic in that part of the world and we are concerned about it,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in July, in one of his rare comments on Ebola.
The United Nations says that $1 billion is required to bring the disease to heel in West Africa.
U.S. President Barack Obama has come up with $175 million and wants his country’s Congress to provide $88 million more.
On top of this, he is dispatching 3,000 troops to build treatment centres in West Africa. The Pentagon estimates that its role in the fight against Ebola will cost $500 million.
Canada, by comparison, is taking the cheapskate’s route.
Some research on an Ebola vaccine has been done by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The agency is also operating a small diagnostic lab in Sierra Leone.
But in total, Ottawa has so far committed only $7.5 million to fight Ebola on the ground.
That figure includes $2.5 million worth of supplies, such as rubber gloves, that the federal government already had in stock.
In the Commons Monday, opposition MPs asked why the government has not mobilized its military Disaster Assistance Response Team to West Africa.
They received no answer.
If the government were equally stingy in other areas of foreign affairs, its tepid response to Ebola might make sense.
But it is not. Ottawa has pledged $15 million to Iraq to help that country fight Islamic State militants. That alone is double what the federal government is spending on Ebola.
The federal government has also dispatched two Royal Canadian Air Force cargo planes to Iraq to shuttle weapons as well as “dozens” of military advisers.
The cost of this military component has not been made public.
Iraq is not the only conflict zone that attracts Canadian government money.
As part of its effort to contain Putin’s Russia, Ottawa is providing next-door Ukraine with non-lethal military aid (cost unknown).
Harper’s government has also promised Ukraine $220 million in economic aid to help it reduce its dependence on Russia.
On Wednesday, the prime minister vowed that Canada would support Ukraine in its efforts against Russia even if the struggle took 50 years.
But then funding conflict never seems to be a problem for politicians. As long as they are seen to be countering a recognizable human villain, money is always available.
In 2011, the federal government spent $104 million to take part in NATO’s air war against Libya’s eccentric but brutal dictator, Moammar Gadhafi.
Hotel bills alone cost Canada $11.5 million in that war, which left Libya in chaos.
The 12-year-long Afghan War against Taliban “scumbags” is estimated to have cost Canada somewhere between $14 billion and $18 billion.
To put that figure in context, the amount that Canada spent in just one year of that pointless war would be more than enough, by UN reckoning, to solve the entire Ebola crisis.
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