Transcript: Snowbird Migration During a COVID-19 Winter | Nov 19, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, blue shirt, and gray tie.

A caption on screen reads "Snowbird migration in a COVID-10 winter. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says IT'S LATE NOVEMBER AND BY NOW VIRTUALLY EVERY CORNER OF THE PROVINCE HAS SEEN THE SNOW FLY. THAT IS OFTEN THE CUE FOR THOUSANDS OF CANADIAN SENIORS TO HEAD SOUTH FOR THE WINTER. THIS YEAR, WITH COVID-19 SPIKING ACROSS NORTH AMERICA, THAT CHOICE ISN'T AS OBVIOUS FOR EVERYONE, PARTICULARLY AS THE BORDER IS - AT LEAST ON PAPER - CLOSED TO ALL NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL. LET'S FIND OUT FROM THE FOLLOWING TRIO, WHOM AS IS OUR CUSTOM, WE INTRODUCE FROM FURTHEST AWAY TO CLOSEST TO OUR STUDIO: IN EDMONTON, ALBERTA: TYLER DAWSON, HE'S A JOURNALIST WITH THE NATIONAL POST AND POSTMEDIA...

Tyler is in his thirties, with short brown hair and a boxed beard. He's wearing a gray suit and a beige shirt.

Steve continues AND HERE IN ONTARIO'S CAPITAL CITY: IN THE THEATRE DISTRICT: LAWYER SCOTT FAIRLEY, HE'S THE 1st CO-CHAIR OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PRACTICE GROUP AND PARTNER IN THE CROSS-BORDER LITIGATION GROUP AT CAMBRIDGE LLP...

Scott is in his seventies, clean-shaven and balding. He's wearing a black suit, blue shirt and a checkered blue bowtie.

Steve continues AND IN THE ANNEX: SARA ALLIN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT THE U OF T's DALLA LANA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS AT THE RESEARCH CENTRE, THE NORTH AMERICAN OBSERVATORY ON HEALTH SYSTEMS AND POLICIES...

Sara is in her thirties, with shoulder-length straight auburn hair. She's wearing glasses, a black blazer and a black shirt.

Steve continues IT'S GOOD TO HAVE EVERYBODY ON OUR PROGRAM TONIGHT FOR A CONVERSATION THAT I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE OVER THE AGE OF 60 ARE GOING TO BE WATCHING VERY CAREFULLY. SCOTT, I WANT TO START WITH YOU BECAUSE YOU RECENTLY WON A COURT CHALLENGE AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO THAT RELATED TO THE ISSUES THAT WE'RE GOING TO BE TALKING ABOUT TONIGHT. WHAT WAS THE CASE ABOUT, AND HOW DID IT GO?

The caption changes to "Scott Fairley. Cambridge LLP."

Scott says WELL, THE CASE WENT WELL. AS YOU ALREADY KNOW, STEVE, SNOWBIRDS WERE CREATED BACK IN 1993 FOR, AMONG OTHER REASONS, TO SECURE HEALTH CARE BENEFITS FOR OUT-OF-COUNTRY TRAVELLERS. THIS WAS THEIR SECOND TIME IN COURT. THE CASE WAS LAUNCHED... AN APPLICATION FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW... LATE LAST YEAR ON THE HEELS OF THE FORD GOVERNMENT'S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT THEY WERE TERMINATING OUT-OF-COUNTRY HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE ALTOGETHER. A PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT ATTEMPTED TO DO THAT BACK IN 1993 AND THE SNOWBIRDS WENT TO COURT THEN. THE COURT KIND OF BALKED AT DEALING WITH THE CASE AT THE TIME BECAUSE THEY SAID IT WAS PREMATURE, GIVEN FEDERAL-PROVINCIAL NEGOTIATIONS. THE SUBSEQUENT GOVERNMENT, INTERESTINGLY A CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT OF MIKE HARRIS REINSTATED THE BENEFITS THAT HAD BEEN PREVIOUSLY IN PLACE AND THE NUMBERS WE'RE LOOKING AT ARE 400 dollars A DAY FOR INPATIENT COVERAGE AND 50 dollars A DAY FOR OUTPATIENT COVERAGE. THOSE NUMBERS HAVE STAYED IN PLACE SINCE THEN, OVER A QUARTER OF A CENTURY, AND THEN SOMEWHAT SURPRISINGLY, THE FORD GOVERNMENT SAID, WELL, THIS IS... GIVEN INFLATION AND WHAT HAVE YOU, THIS IS KIND OF A TRIVIAL AMOUNT OF MONEY WITH BIG ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS AND SO WE'RE CASHING IN THE PROGRAM ALTOGETHER.

The caption changes to "This year's flight patterns."

Steve says LET ME JUMP IN WITH A FOLLOW-UP HERE BECAUSE AT THIS TIME, OF COURSE, THE FORD GOVERNMENT WAS TURNING OVER EVERY ROCK IN AN ATTEMPT TO SAVE SOME MONEY, AND EVEN THOUGH THE SUMS WEREN'T BIG HERE, RELATIVELY SPEAKING, THEY DID WANT TO SAFE THE MONEY. WHAT DID THE COURT FOUND PERSUASIVE THAT THEY FORCED THE GOVERNMENT TO REINSTATE THE PROGRAM?

Scott says THE STRICT LEGAL ARGUMENT WAS THAT THE ONTARIO HEALTH INSURANCE ACT REQUIRED THE GOVERNMENT TO ENACT REGULATIONS ONLY IN CONFORMITY WITH THE CANADA HEALTH ACT, AND THE TERMINATION OF THE PROGRAM VIOLATED THE... VIOLATED ONE OF THE FOUR PILLARS OR FIVE PILLARS OF THE CANADA HEALTH ACT WHICH WAS ESSENTIALLY THE MOBILITY OF COVERAGE INSIDE AND OUTSIDE CANADA AT LEAST TO A LEVEL COMMENSURATE WITH WHAT THE PROVINCE WOULD PAY IF THOSE MEDICAL SERVICES ARE RENDERED INSIDE THE COUNTRY.

Steve says PORTABILITY IS ONE OF THE FIVE KEY PILLARS OF THE PLAN. SARA, LET ME GO TO YOU WITH SOME FOLLOW-UP THERE. OBVIOUSLY SNOWBIRDS WERE HAPPY WITH THIS DECISION. DO YOU THINK THE COURT DECIDED THIS CORRECTLY?

The caption changes to "Sara Allin. University of Toronto. Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation."

Sara says YEAH, I MEAN, STRICTLY, THE CANADA HEALTH ACT DOES HAVE THIS REQUIREMENT FOR PORTABILITY. SO IT'S NOT SURPRISING TO ME THAT, YOU KNOW, THIS CHANGE THAT WENT AGAINST THAT REQUIREMENT WAS, YOU KNOW, WAS RULED IN FAVOUR OF THE SNOWBIRDS. BUT THAT SAID, THE CANADA HEALTH ACT ITSELF COULD BE, YOU KNOW, WE COULD SCRUTINIZE THAT MORE CLOSELY AND IT HAS BEEN IN THE PAST, AND SO I'LL POINT OUT ONE MAJOR COMMISSION ON THE FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE IN CANADA, WHICH WAS STRUCK BY PRIME MINISTER JEAN CHRETIEN, SO IT'S NOT A RECENT COMMISSION BUT IT STILL IS PROBABLY THE MOST THOROUGH INVESTIGATION OF THE CANADA HEALTH ACT AND ITS REQUIREMENTS IN OUR RECENT HISTORY, AND THIS COMMISSION SPENT A YEAR AND A HALF CONSULTING WITH THE PUBLIC, WORKING WITH EXPERTS, COMMISSIONING REPORTS, AND THEY RECOMMENDED IN THEIR FINAL REPORT IN 2012 THAT THIS PORTABILITY REQUIREMENT WAS FUNDAMENTALLY IMPORTANT FOR CANADIANS TO BE ABLE TO TRAVEL ACROSS THE COUNTRY. SO, YOU KNOW, CANADIANS' RIGHT TO WORK AND TO TRAVEL WITHIN CANADA AND TO BE PROTECTED IN THE EVENT OF ILLNESS NEEDS TO BE MAINTAINED. BUT THEY ARGUED THAT THIS REQUIREMENT FOR HEALTH COVERAGE TO EXTEND BEYOND THE BORDERS WAS REALLY QUESTIONED IN THIS REPORT. THIS WAS BASED ON A REVIEW DONE BY PROFESSOR COLIN FLOOD AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA WHO IS A LEGAL SCHOLAR AND SHE WAS ORGANIZING THAT THIS NOTION OF A SOCIAL PROGRAM WHEN SOMEONE LEAVES CANADA IS UNUSUAL. WE DON'T EXPECT THINGS LIKE OUR EDUCATION PROGRAMS TO FOLLOW US AS WE TRAVEL AND SPEND A FEW MONTHS ELSEWHERE, THAT WE WOULD BE ENTITLED TO GO TO SCHOOL AND BE REIMBURSED FOR ANY COSTS. SO IT'S UNUSUAL TO EXPECT THAT TYPE OF COVERAGE TO FOLLOW YOU OUTSIDE OF CANADA, AND SO THIS WAS REALLY QUESTIONED, WHETHER THIS COMPONENT OF THE CANADA HEALTH ACT WAS REALLY GOOD POLICY IN THE SENSE OF, WE HAVE FINITE HEALTH RESOURCES. SHOULD IT BE COVERING SOME OF THE COSTS OF HEALTH CARE INCURRED OUTSIDE OF CANADA, OR WOULD IT BE BETTER SPENT ON IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF CARE IN CANADA.

Steve says JUST TO BE CLEAR, THIS WAS THE ROYAL COMMISSION ESTABLISHED UNDER FORMER SASKATCHEWAN PREMIER ROY ROMANOW'S TENURE. IT BECAME KNOWN AS THE ROMANOW COMMISSION. HE'S THE ONE WHO LED THAT WHOLE PROCEDURE. TYLER, I GUESS I NEED YOU TO BREAK THE TIE HERE. WE HAVE LEGISLATION THAT SAYS SNOWBIRDS DESERVE COVERAGE EVEN IF THEY HEAD SOUTH AND LEAVE CANADA AND SARA SAYS IF KIDS GO TO SCHOOL IN THE STATES, THEY DON'T GET COVERAGE THERE. WHERE DO YOU COME DOWN ON THIS?

The caption changes to "Tyler Dawson. National Post."

Tyler says I'M NOT SURE I HAVE A SUPER STRONG VIEW ON IT. I THINK I CAN UNDERSTAND BOTH SIDES. I MEAN, AT THE END OF THE DAY, THOUGH, PEOPLE ARE SORT OF RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR OWN DECISIONS. YOU KNOW, IS THIS A MASSIVE COST TO GOVERNMENT? NO, NOT IN PARTICULAR. BUT I CERTAINLY CAN SEE THE ARGUMENT OF PEOPLE WHO SAY, YOU KNOW, LOOK, YOU ARE GOING OUT OF COUNTRY. IF YOU ARE DOING THAT, YOU CAN PROBABLY AFFORD YOUR OWN HEALTH INSURANCE, AND THERE IS CERTAINLY A STRONG ARGUMENT I THINK TO BE MADE THAT THE GOVERNMENT REALLY HAS NO BUSINESS IN PROVIDING YOU HEALTH CARE OUTSIDE OF THE COUNTRY.

Steve says WELL, LET'S UNDERSTAND WHO THIS MIGHT ACTUALLY COVER THIS YEAR, BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY THIS IS NO ORDINARY YEAR. I MEAN, BY THIS TIME, IN A NORMAL YEAR, WE WOULD HAVE SEEN, YOU KNOW, PRETTY SIGNIFICANT EXODUS OF OLDER PEOPLE FROM CANADA DOWN TO WHEREVER THEY'RE GOING, FLORIDA, ARIZONA, WHEREVER THEY GO AT THIS TIME OF YEAR. WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT WHO IS LEAVING SO FAR THIS YEAR?

Tyler says THERE'S BASICALLY THREE GROUPS, I WOULD SAY YOU CAN CATEGORIZE THEM INTO. YOU HAVE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE DIEHARD SNOWBIRDS WHO ARE GOING TO GO REGARDLESS, IN SOME CASES THOSE ARE PEOPLE WHO DON'T HAVE WINTER HOMES IN CANADA. YOU HAVE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE ALREADY DECIDED THAT, NO, THEY'RE NOT GOING TO GO, MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC, JUST NOT SAFE, THEY'LL STAY HOME. THEN YOU HAVE THE GROUP THAT IS TAKING A WAIT-AND-SEE APPROACH, MAYBE GOING DOWN IN JANUARY OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT RATHER THAN PRIOR TO CHRISTMAS. I THINK FOR THOSE PEOPLE, PROBABLY THEY'RE LOOKING AT THE STATE OF AFFAIRS AND THINKING IT'S LESS AND LESS LIKELY THAT THEY'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO HEAD DOWN SOUTH THIS WINTER.

Steve says SCOTT, THIS IS A SERIOUS QUESTION. IT'S GOING TO SOUND LIKE A FACETIOUS QUESTION, BUT IT REALLY IS A SERIOUS QUESTION. IF YOU ARE A SNOWBIRD AND YOU WANT TO GO SOUTH AND YOU GET TO THE BOARD AND THEY SAY TO YOU, "WHY ARE YOU GOING SOUTH," SHOULD YOU LIE AND TELL THEM IT'S AN EMERGENCY AND I'VE GOT TO CHECK MY PROPERTY DOWN SOUTH?

Scott says YOU KNOW, STEVE, I'M NOT AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER.
[LAUGHTER]
OR AN EXPERT IN CROSS-BORDER SECURITY. I DON'T THINK THAT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER FOR A SNOWBIRD.

Steve says BECAUSE IF YOU DON'T GIVE THAT ANSWER, THEY'RE GOING TO TELL YOU TO TURN AROUND AND GO HOME. YOU KNOW THAT, EH?

Scott says WELL, AND I THINK THAT'S SOMETHING WHICH SNOWBIRDS ARE BEING EDUCATED ON BEFORE THEY MAKE THEIR TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS. I THINK, YOU'RE RIGHT, TRAVELLING BY CAR FOR NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL, THAT'S LIKELY TO BE THE RESULT. I DON'T KNOW IF THE SITUATION IS THE SAME IF YOU TAKE A PLANE OR WHAT HAVE YOU.

Steve says I THINK A PLANE YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH IT...

Scott says I ALWAYS COUNSEL ANYONE WHO IS MY CLIENT TO TELL THE TRUTH.

Steve says RIGHT. WHICH WE DO ALL THE TIME. EXACTLY. LET ME JUST READ THIS HERE. THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT APPARENTLY ACCEPTED THE COURT RULING IN YOUR CASE. THEY'RE NOT APPEALING IT. AND SO THE GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO HONOUR THE RULING AND WE GOT THIS STATEMENT YESTERDAY FROM THE ONTARIO MINISTRY OF HEALTH ABOUT THIS ISSUE, AND I'LL JUST READ THIS OUT HERE AND GET THIS ON THE RECORD...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Travel advisory." The quote reads "The government would like to stress that regardless of the reinstatement of OHIP Travellers coverage, it strongly recommends that residents obtain private travel health insurance before travelling outside of Canada for any length of time and not rely solely on OHIP coverage as it will not cover all medical expenses.
As wea re living in unprecedented times while fighting COVID-19, at this time, the government and the Chief Medical Officer of Health are also urging all Ontarians to limit trips outside of home and travel to essential purposes only including to other regions in the province, especially from higher to lower transmission areas."
Ontario Ministry of Health statement via email. November 18th, 2020.

Steve says OKAY. SO THAT'S THE OFFICIAL WORD FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO. I GUESS, SARA, LET'S START WITH YOU ON THIS. THAT'S THEIR ADVICE. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THEIR ADVICE?

The caption changes to "To flee or not to flee."

Sara says I THINK IT'S GOOD ADVICE. I MEAN, THE SURPRISING THING FOR ME IS THAT THIS OUT-OF-COUNTRY COVERAGE IS CALLED THAT. IT'S NOT COVERAGE. THE AMOUNT OF COST THAT IT COVERS IS SO MINIMAL, THE AUDITOR GENERAL OF ONTARIO ESTIMATED IT TO BE ABOUT 5 CENTS OF EVERY DOLLAR SPENT WOULD HAVE BEEN REIMBURSED. AND MOST OF THE TIME, IT'S REIMBURSED DIRECTLY TO INSURANCE COMPANIES WHO... PEOPLE WHO TRAVEL KNOW THAT THEY NEED TO PURCHASE PRIVATE INSURANCE ALREADY, ESPECIALLY SNOWBIRDS WHO HAVE BEEN DOING THIS MANY WINTERS WILL KNOW THAT THE COST OF CARE IN HOSPITALS OR BY PHYSICIANS IN THE UNITED STATES IS EXTREMELY HIGH. THIS IS FAIRLY WELL-KNOWN, THAT THIS COVERAGE PROGRAM IS NOT THAT. IT'S MAINLY A SUBSIDY TO INSURANCE COMPANIES, AND MAYBE A THIRD OF THE REIMBURSEMENTS THAT ARE SOUGHT ARE BY INDIVIDUALS THEMSELVES AND THE AVERAGE CLAIM IS ABOUT 100 dollars THAT THEY GET. SO IT IS NOT A COVERAGE PROGRAM. I THINK THE... IT'S IMPORTANT FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO BE VERY CLEAR THAT THERE IS NO COVERAGE FOR PEOPLE OUT OF COUNTRY, WHETHER THEY HAVE THIS PROGRAM IN PLACE OR NOT.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says SCOTT, I DON'T WANT TO MINIMIZE YOUR LEGAL WIZARDRY IN THIS CASE, BUT IF THE FACT IS THAT THIS OUT-OF-PROVINCE COVERAGE ONLY PROVIDES 5 CENTS OF EVERY DOLLAR, IS THE VICTORY THAT YOU WON IN COURT ALL THAT SIGNIFICANT AT THE END OF THE DAY?

Scott says I THINK IT'S AN IMPORTANT ONE. SARA IS CORRECT ON THE ESSENTIAL PERCENTAGES, BUT THERE'S A BIT OF A DOMINO EFFECT HERE. SNOWBIRDS ARE BY AND LARGE OLDER RETIRED PEOPLE, AVERAGE AGE 67, AVERAGE INCOME 73K A YEAR, AND THE MAJORITY OF THAT IS FIXED INCOME THAT ARE DERIVED FROM PENSIONS. AND PENSION PLANS FROM VARIOUS EMPLOYERS REACTED VERY NEGATIVELY TO THE FORD GOVERNMENT'S DECISION AND THREATENED TO WITHDRAW THEIR OWN COVERAGE IF THE GOVERNMENT WAS FOLDING ITS TENT. SO THE 5 CENTS ON EVERY DOLLAR IS REALLY QUITE MISLEADING IN TERMS OF ITS PRACTICAL... PRACTICAL AND SYMBOLIC IMPACT. AND SO IN THE SNOWBIRD SITUATION, ANYONE TRAVELLING SOUTH FOR PROLONGED PERIODS OF TIME OR ABROAD FOR PROLONGED PERIODS OF TIME, PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE IS A SINE QUA NON OF GOING ANYWHERE AND THAT HAS BEEN A REALITY IN ONTARIO SINCE... YOU KNOW, SINCE THE EARLY 1990s. OTHER ELEMENTS TO CONSIDER, THOUGH, WHICH MAKES THIS NON-TRIVIAL IS SHORT-TERM TRAVEL. A BICYCLE RIDE FROM WOLF ISLAND IN UPSTATE NEW YORK, A SHOPPING TRIP FROM WINDSOR TO DETROIT. VERY BRIEF TIMES WHERE YOU'RE ABROAD, WHERE YOU MAY NOT HAVE SHORT-TERM HEALTH CARE COVERAGE OR WHAT HAVE YOU, AND THAT 5 percent IS MEANINGFUL. CERTAINLY FOR THE DEMOGRAPHIC THAT THE SNOWBIRD LITIGATION SPOKE TO. AND IF THEY'RE NOT GOING TO THE UNITED STATES, WHICH IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD AND THEY'RE GOING TO OTHER PLACES LIKE SOUTHERN ITALY OR FRANCE, THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS THERE ARE VERY DIFFERENT; AND WHILE I DON'T HAVE COMPLETE FACTS ON POINT, THOSE HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS COVER A LOT MORE AT A MUCH MORE REASONABLE COST, AND IN SOME INSTANCES WHAT THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT DID GIVE AND HAS NOW BEEN FORCED TO GIVE BACK BY THE ONTARIO COURT SYSTEM CLOSES THE GAP NOT INSIGNIFICANTLY.

Steve says OKAY. LET ME GET... LET ME GET A LITTLE PERSONAL WITH EVERYBODY HERE. TYLER, I WANT TO START WITH YOU ON THIS ONE. YOUR AGE, GIVEN THE AGE YOU ARE, I'M GUESSING YOU'VE GOT GRANDPARENTS. YES?

Tyler says I DO, YES.

Steve says YOU HAVE GRANDPARENTS THAT USUALLY GO SOUTH AROUND THIS TIME?

Tyler says YES, MY MOM'S GRANDPARENTS GO DOWN TO CALIFORNIA MOST YEARS.

Steve says YOUR MOM'S GRANDPARENTS OR YOUR MOM'S PARENTS.

Tyler says SORRY. MY MOM'S PARENTS.

Steve says WHAT AGES ARE THEY?

Tyler says THEY'RE IN THEIR MID 80s.

Steve says MID 80s. THEY GO TO CALIFORNIA EVERY YEAR AROUND THIS TIME. HAVE YOU BEEN DISCUSSING WITH THEM WHETHER THEY'RE GOING TO DO THAT THIS YEAR?

The caption changes to "Tyler Dawson. Post Media."

Tyler says I HAVEN'T, NO. BUT I BELIEVE MY AUNTS AND UNCLES HAVE TALKED TO THEM ABOUT IT AND THEY ARE STILL IN CANADA AND I DON'T BELIEVE THEY HAVE ANY PLANS TO GO. YOU KNOW, THEY WERE DOWN THERE IN THE SPRING AND LATE WINTER WHEN THE PANDEMIC FIRST SORT OF KICKED OFF SO THERE WAS A DISCUSSION AT THAT POINT ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THEY SHOULD TRY AND GET ON THE NEXT PLANE BACK HOME.

Steve says WHERE'S HOME FOR THEM?

Tyler says THEY LIVE IN RED DEER, ALBERTA. SO SORT OF RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE BETWEEN EDMONTON AND CALGARY.

Steve says GOTCHA. AND THEY DID COME HOME AND NOW THEY HAVE TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT THEY WANT TO GO TO CALIFORNIA. DO YOU KNOW... DO THEY PLAN TO TRY AND MAKE IT?

Tyler says NO. I'M QUITE SURE THEY'RE PLANNING TO STAY HOME THIS WINTER.

Steve says THEY'RE GOING TO SPEND THE WHOLE WINTER IN RED DEER. BET THEY'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT.

Tyler says I CAN CONFIRM THEY ARE NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT.

[LAUGHTER]

Steve says WHAT ULTIMATELY WAS THE DECIDING FACTOR FOR THEM NOT TO GO?

Tyler says I BELIEVE IT WAS QUITE SIMPLY THE PANDEMIC AND THE RISKS OF GETTING SICK IN THE UNITED STATES VERSUS HERE, AND FOR THEM I THINK IT JUST WASN'T WORTH IT.

Steve says OKAY. SARA, LET ME COME TO YOU ON THIS NEXT ONE. YOU'VE GOT PARENTS OR GRANDPARENTS WHO NORMALLY GO SOUTH FOR THE WINTER?

Sara says YES. MY PARENTS SPEND A COUPLE MONTHS EVERY WINTER IN FLORIDA.

Steve says THEY DO. OKAY. ARE THEY THERE NOW?

Sara says NO.

Steve says THEY ARE HERE NOW. THEY LIVE IN ONTARIO?

Sara says YES. THEY LIVE IN TORONTO.

Steve says THEY DO. OKAY. LET US INTO SOME OF THEIR DECISION-MAKING PROCESS RIGHT NOW. WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?

Sara says YEAH, THEY'RE THINKING THAT THERE'S A PANDEMIC, THAT THE UNITED STATES DOES NOT HAVE THIS PANDEMIC UNDER CONTROL AS MUCH AS WE DO HAVE IN CANADA. THINGS ARE GETTING WORSE AND NOT BETTER. AND HOSPITALS ARE GOING TO BECOME OVERRUN. THE RISK OF FLYING IS MUCH GREATER THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN. THEY'RE NOT WILLING TO TAKE ANY OF THOSE RISKS. THE DISCUSSION HAS NOT INVOLVED AT ALL THIS NOTION OF OUT-OF-COUNTRY COVERAGE. IT'S EXCLUSIVELY THE PANDEMIC THAT WAS DRIVING THIS DECISION.

Steve says UNDERSTOOD. WHAT AGE RANGE ROUGHLY ARE YOUR PARENTS IN?

Sara says NEARLY 70.

Steve says OKAY. HOW DO I PUT THIS? IT'S NOT LIKE IF YOU STAY IN CANADA THERE'S ZERO RISK, RIGHT? I MEAN, THERE IS THE RISK OF COVID HERE. THERE'S ALSO THE RISK OF, YOU KNOW, NEEDLESS TO SAY, SLIPPING ON ICE OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT BECAUSE WINTER'S HERE. SO HOW HAVE THEY... THEY'VE HAD TO BALANCE, I GUESS, WEIGH DIFFERING RISKS. DO YOU KNOW FOR SURE THEY'RE NOT GOING TO GO DOWN THERE AT ALL?

The caption changes to "Sara Allin, @allin_sara."

Sara says YEAH, WELL, THEY ASKED ME FOR ADVICE AND I USUALLY WILL, YOU KNOW... I USUALLY BALANCE THESE SORT OF TRADE-OFFS BETWEEN WELL-BEING AND SUNSHINE WITH THE RISK AND THE COST, AND SO MY ADVICE WAS NOT TO GO. IF THE HEALTH SYSTEM THAT WE KNOW AND TRUST IS HERE IN TORONTO, YOU KNOW, THE HOSPITAL CAPACITY HAS BEEN ABLE TO BE MAINTAINED. WE DID FAIRLY WELL THE FIRST WAVE OF THE PANDEMIC AND WE'RE HOPEFUL THAT WE WILL HERE. THE UNITED STATES IS OUT OF CONTROL IN MANY PARTS OF THE COUNTRY. IT'S REALLY WORRYING. AND IT'S NOT WHERE YOU WANT TO BE, ESPECIALLY WHEN THE RISKS OF GETTING SICK ARE MUCH HIGHER THAN NORMAL.

Steve says HOW DO THEY FEEL ABOUT SPENDING THE ENTIRE WINTER IN CANADA?

Sara says I'LL BE HERE WITH MY KIDS SO THAT WILL BE NICE FOR SOME WINTER VISITS IN THE BACK YARD. SO THAT WILL MAKE IT A LITTLE BIT EASIER.

Steve says DO YOU THINK THE JOY OF SPENDING ALL THAT TIME WITH THEIR DAUGHTER AND GRANDCHILDREN OUTWEIGHS THE MISERY OF THE WEATHER THAT'S COMING?

Sara says I WOULD SAY YES.

[LAUGHTER]

Steve says OKAY. LET'S HOPE YOU'RE RIGHT. GOOD ENOUGH. SCOTT, LET ME ASK YOU THE SAME QUESTION. EITHER YOUR FAMILY, YOU, ANY RELATIVES? DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE SITUATION IS REGARDING GOING SOUTH?

Scott says I HAVE ONE MOTHER-IN-LAW. SHE'S NOT. I HAVE NEVER BEEN A SNOWBIRD. I AM SNOW BOUND AND ENJOY THAT BECAUSE I'M AN ENTHUSIASTIC SKIER. SO THE BORDER ISSUES OR THE BLOCKADE OF THE BORDER HASN'T BEEN A MAJOR CONCERN FOR ME.

Steve says HOW OLD IS YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW?

Scott says SHE IS IN HER 80s.

Steve says HER 80s. IS SHE GOING TO BE MAD THAT YOU JUST CONFESSED THAT TO OUR TELEVISION AUDIENCE?

Scott says SHE MIGHT. I WASN'T SPECIFIC. SHE IS VERY HEALTHY AND YOUTHFUL DOESN'T BETRAY HER AGE.

Steve says YOU'RE BACK IN THE GOOD BOOKS NOW. TELL ME THIS: WOULD SHE NORMALLY GO SOUTH FOR THE WINTER?

Scott says THAT HAS NOT BEEN HER PATTERN EXCEPT FOR DESIGNATED TRIPS, TWO OR THREE WEEKS ON A TOUR, SOMETHING LIKE THAT, AND FOR THE LONGEST TIME, SHE DID HAVE, WITH HER LATE HUSBAND, A TIME SHARE IN SOUTH CAROLINA. AND SO THEY WOULD DO THAT. BUT, AGAIN, IT WAS ONLY, YOU KNOW, A COUPLE OF WEEKS IN A GIVEN YEAR.

Steve says GOTCHA. TYLER, I WONDER IF YOU COULD... AGAIN, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT WEIGHING VARIOUS RISKS. THE RISK OF GOING VERSUS THE RISK OF STAYING. YOU KNOW, I CAN IMAGINE SOME PEOPLE ARE SITTING THERE SAYING, WELL, IF I'M GOING TO BE STAYING INDOORS IN CANADA ALL WINTER OR I'M BASICALLY GOING TO BE ON MY OWN AND MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS IN SOUTH FLORIDA ALL WINTER, WHAT'S WRONG WITH GOING DOWN AND JUST SPENDING THE TIME IN FLORIDA? WHAT'S THE ANSWER TO THAT?

Tyler says WELL, I DON'T THINK THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH IT NECESSARILY. I MEAN, MY CONCERN WOULD BE THE PATTERN THAT YOU DO SEE SOME YEARS WHERE SOME PEOPLE GO DOWN FOR A COUPLE OF MONTHS AND THEN COME BACK FOR CHRISTMAS AND THEN GO BACK DOWN FOR A COUPLE OF MONTHS AND THEN COME BACK FOR SPRING BREAK OR FAMILY DAY OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. SO THE TRANSMISSION RATES RIGHT NOW FROM TRAVELLERS TO THE CANADIAN POPULATION SEEMS TO BE VERY, VERY LOW. BUT IF YOU DO HAVE PEOPLE COMING BACK AND FORTH, THAT IS WHERE I THINK THERE IS A LITTLE BIT MORE OF A PUBLIC HEALTH RISK AND, YOU KNOW, ALSO MAYBE MORE OF A MORAL HAZARD. SO IF PEOPLE WANT TO GO AND STAY, I MEAN, THEY'RE ONLY REALLY PUTTING THEMSELVES AT RISK. PEOPLE COMING BACK AND FORTH IS MAYBE A DIFFERENT SITUATION, I WOULD SAY.

Steve says WELL, AND INDEED, TYLER, I GUESS IF YOU GO AND THEN COME BACK, YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO, YOU KNOW, SHELTER IN PLACE FOR TWO WEEKS WHILE YOU'RE BACK HERE, SO THAT'S SOMETHING PEOPLE MAY NOT WANT TO DO AND, AGAIN, GOING DOWN, YOU'RE DEALING WITH AIRPORTS. THE FLIGHTS, THEY TELL US, ARE SAFER THAN EVER BECAUSE THEY CHANGED ALL THE CIRCULATION SYSTEMS ON THE AIRPLANES NOW. SO THAT'S SUPPOSED TO BE FINE. DO YOU KNOW RELATIVELY SPEAKING WHAT THE SAFETY OF TRAVELLING THROUGH AIRPORTS WOULD BE FOR SENIOR CITIZENS RIGHT NOW?

The caption changes to "Tyler Dawson, @tylerrdawson."

Tyler says WELL, I FLEW ONCE TO VISIT SOME FRIENDS IN ONTARIO, ACTUALLY, BACK IN JUNE, I GUESS IT WAS... CONFESSING THAT ON NATIONAL TELEVISION. AND, YOU KNOW, IT FELT ACTUALLY QUITE SAFE, I WOULD SAY. THERE WERE VERY FEW PEOPLE IN THE AIRPORTS. YOU GOT A LITTLE BAGGIE WITH HAND SANITIZER AND MASKS AND WHATNOT. SO I DON'T THINK IT'S ALL THAT MUCH RISKIER THAN ANYTHING ELSE, BUT OF COURSE IF WE REFER BACK TO THE MINISTER OF HEALTH'S STATEMENT ABOUT TRYING TO STAY HOME REGARDLESS AND AVOIDING NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL AROUND THE PROVINCE, AROUND CITIES, WITHIN THE COUNTRY, YOU KNOW, IN THAT SENSE, THAT MAYBE BREAKS THE SPIRIT OF THE GUIDANCE FROM PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS.

Steve says WELL, LET ME PUT THAT TO SARA, BECAUSE TYLER JUST HINTED AT IT IN HIS ANSWER, NEVER MIND THE PUBLIC HEALTH ASPECT OF THIS, BUT IS THERE AN ETHICAL ANGLE TO THIS STORY, IS THERE A MORALITY ABOUT TRAVELLING BECAUSE, NEVER MIND FOR YOURSELF, BUT ETHICALLY THAT'S THE SMARTER THING TO DO VIS-A-VIS THE REST OF THE POPULATION HERE. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ON THAT?

The caption changes to "Out of country, out of pocket, who pays?"

Sara says YEAH, I THINK AS WE'VE SEEN IN THIS PANDEMIC, THE WAY THAT WE'RE GOING TO SUCCEED AND TO FIGHT THIS IS THROUGH SOLIDARITY, THROUGH THINKING ABOUT EACH OTHER, ACTING AS A COMMUNITY, AND SOMETIMES THAT GOES AGAINST OUR OWN PERSONAL BEST INTERESTS. BUT WE DO IT BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT IT REDUCES RISKS FOR OTHERS. FOR INSTANCE, THE IDEA THAT KIDS ARE IN SCHOOL AND NOW WE SHOULDN'T BE PERHAPS VISITING WITH MY PARENTS INSIDE THEIR HOME BECAUSE THEY HAVE INCREASED RISK THROUGH THE COHORTS THAT THEY ARE AT SCHOOL. SO IT'S NOT WHAT WE WOULD LIKE TO DO PERSONALLY, BUT IT'S WHAT WE THINK WE SHOULD DO BECAUSE WE DON'T WANT TO GET OTHER PEOPLE SICK WHO MIGHT BE AT HIGHER RISK. THE SAME GOES FOR TRAVELLING. SO THE MORE CROWDS THERE ARE... AND WE'RE PART OF THAT IF WE'RE GOING INTO THE AIRPORT, WE'RE GOING INTO PLANES, WE'RE CONTRIBUTING TO A CROWD WHERE THAT'S HOW THE VIRUS IS TRANSMITTED. SO THE MORE WE ACT IN KEEPING THE SORT OF SOLIDARITY IDEA, THE VIEW THAT WE'RE LOOKING OUT FOR EACH OTHER, THEN THE MORE SUCCESSFUL WE'LL BE AND THAT'S WHY THE MINISTER OF HEALTH AND THE CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER ARE SAYING STAY PUT. WE WANT PEOPLE TO STAY IN THEIR HOMES BECAUSE THAT REDUCES THE RISK FOR EVERYONE.

Steve says I HEAR YOU. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ARGUMENT SOME PEOPLE MIGHT COME BACK WITH WHICH IS SO FEW PEOPLE ARE FLYING THESE DAYS THAT THE AIRPORTS ARE BASICALLY MUCH EMPTIER THAN THEY EVER WERE. THE FLIGHTS ARE GOING TO BE HALF, IF NOT MORE, EMPTY. THE RISK THAT WE'RE IMPOSING ON THE REST OF THE SOCIETY IS ACTUALLY PROBABLY HISTORICALLY LOW RIGHT NOW. WHAT ABOUT THAT ARGUMENT?

Sara says IT DEPENDS HOW MANY PEOPLE THINK THAT WAY AND THEN THEY WON'T BE SO QUIET AND, YOU KNOW, THE CROWDS WILL INCREASE. SO I THINK WE JUST HAVE TO MAKE OUR OWN DECISIONS FOR WHERE WE'RE GOING TO BE BEST PLACED BECAUSE STAYING IN TORONTO IN THE WINTER AND WAITING UNTIL IT'S SAFER TO BE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, OR IS IT TO GO AND STAY SOMEWHERE WARM WHERE YOU'RE NOT GOING TO GO OUT AND SOCIALIZE BUT YOU CAN BE IN A WARM PLACE? THESE ARE DECISIONS THAT EVERYONE HAS TO MAKE FOR THEMSELVES.

Steve says TYLER, IF YOU ACTUALLY WANT SOME PLACE RELATIVELY WARM AND YOU NEED TO STAY IN CANADA, YOU GOT ANY ADVICE FOR US?

Tyler says YEAH. I MEAN, THERE'S A FEW SPOTS IN B.C. THAT PEOPLE DO HISTORICALLY GO AND YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BE SITTING OUT ON THE BEACH, BUT YOU COULD MAYBE GET OUT ON THE GOLF COURSE HERE AND THERE. VICTORIA ON VANCOUVER ISLAND IS A POPULAR SPOT. OSOYOOS IS ANOTHER ONE, SOUTH OF KELOWNA, SOUTH OF PENTICTON IN THE INTERIOR OF B.C. THOSE ARE BOTH PLACES WHERE IN-COUNTRY MIGRATION. AND THERE WAS SOME CHATTER EARLIER THIS YEAR ABOUT PEOPLE MODIFYING THEIR PLANS AND HEADING TO A PLACE LIKE OSOYOOS INSTEAD OF DOWN TO PHOENIX OR DOWN TO CALIFORNIA. SO THERE ARE OPTIONS. PACK A JACKET, NONETHELESS, BUT PERHAPS BETTER THAN BEING IN RED DEER OR TORONTO.

Steve says SO YOU'RE IN EDMONTON RIGHT NOW. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HANGING OUT IN EDMONTON FOR THE WHOLE WINTER?

Tyler says YOU KNOW, I'M IN THE SAME BOAT AS SCOTT. I'M A BIG SKIER. SO IT'S SNOWING AND I CANNOT WAIT FOR THE SKI HILLS TO BE OPEN AND THINGS LIKE THAT. I LOVE WINTER. I HAVE NO DESIRE TO GO SIT IN PHOENIX.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Steve says GOOD FOR YOU. OKAY. SCOTT, LET ME GET YOU BACK IN HERE AND AGAIN GET YOU TO SPEAK TO THIS ETHICAL ANGLE HERE. AS A LAWYER, YOU WOULD CARE ABOUT ETHICS AND THE LAW. DO YOU THINK THERE'S AN ETHICAL ARGUMENT TO BE MADE THAT NOBODY SHOULD BE GOING SOUTH TO THE UNITED STATES FOR THE WINTER WHILE THE GOVERNMENTS ARE URGING US TO KIND OF SHELTER IN PLACE AND, YOU KNOW, NIP THIS THING IN THE BUD?

Scott says WELL, I DON'T THINK IT'S A... I THINK THE GOVERNMENT STATEMENT THAT YOU QUOTED WAS AN ACCURATE AND USEFUL ONE, AND I AGREE WITH SARA'S OBSERVATIONS, BUT I DON'T THINK IT'S A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL SITUATION. THERE'S A NUMBER OF ONTARIO RESIDENTS WHO, FOR VERY VALID HEALTH REASONS, NEED TO GET THEMSELVES AWAY FROM THE HARSHNESS AND HAZARDS OF A CANADIAN WINTER. AND SO FOR THOSE PEOPLE, THERE'S LITTLE ALTERNATIVE. FOR THOSE WHO ARE JUST SEEKING... LIKE PLAYING GOLF ALL THROUGH THE WINTER, WELL, YOU KNOW, THAT'S A DIFFERENT CALCULATION. I THINK EVERYONE HAS TO BE THEIR OWN JUDGE OF THE MORAL HAZARD THEY'RE UNDERTAKING AND HOW IT MIGHT AFFECT OTHERS THEY CARE ABOUT. AND I THINK THAT WILL BE REFLECTED IN THE PERCENTAGES AS BETWEEN THIS YEAR AND A NORMAL YEAR AND HOPEFULLY THE NORMAL YEARS WILL RETURN, AS TO WHO GOES SOUTH AND WHO DOESN'T. AND ON THAT SCORE, I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO APPRECIATE, GIVEN THAT THE SNOWBIRD LITIGATION WAS A BIT OF A CATALYST FOR THIS PANEL, THAT LITIGATION AND THE SNOWBIRDS' POSITION ON OUT-OF-COUNTRY COVERAGE IS TOTALLY UNCOUPLED FROM THE EXTRAORDINARY IMPACT OF COVID-19. THERE'S NO RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TWO WHATSOEVER.

Steve says NO, I TAKE YOUR POINT ON THAT, AND IN FACT, WITH JUST A COUPLE OF MINUTES TO GO HERE, LET ME GET SARA TO COMMENT ON THIS. SCOTT'S QUITE RIGHT, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WILL HAVE LEGITIMATE REASONS FOR GOING SOUTH, MAYBE THEY HAVE RESPIRATORY ISSUES, GET OUT OF THE COLD, WHATEVER. WHAT IF THEY GO TO THE UNITED STATES AND CONTRACT COVID-19, WHAT COMPLICATIONS DOES THAT PRESENT FOR THEM THEN?

Sara says WELL, SIMILAR TO THE COMPLICATIONS THEY'D EXPERIENCE HERE. SO THERE ARE HEALTH RISKS. THEY'D HAVE TO SELF-ISOLATE AND OBVIOUSLY TELL OTHERS THEY'RE IN CONTACT WITH TO DO THE SAME. THEY MAY END UP IN HOSPITAL. THEY MAY REQUIRE A VENTILATOR. THEY MAY NEED AN ICU BED. HOPEFULLY THERE WILL BE CAPACITY IN THE HOSPITALS WHERE THEY'RE SPENDING TIME AND FOR THEM TO BE ADMITTED. SO ALL OF THOSE THINGS ARE EXTREMELY COSTLY. THEY WILL LIKELY HAVE PRIVATE INSURANCE THAT WOULD COVER THE COSTS OF THOSE, BUT IF THERE ARE COMPLICATIONS, THIS COULD LEAD TO A PROLONGED HOSPITALIZATION WHICH IN ITSELF POSES ADDITIONAL RISK. BUT WE KNOW THAT THE COST WOULD BE ENORMOUS. WE KNOW THAT OUT-OF-COUNTRY COVERAGE BY THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT WILL NOT BE HELPFUL AT ALL IN COVERING ANY OF THOSE COSTS. SO I THINK IF PEOPLE ARE AWARE THERE'S RISKS, THERE'S SIGNIFICANT COSTS, BUT THE BENEFITS HAVE TO OUTWEIGH THOSE RISKS.

Steve says TYLER, CAN YOU FOLLOW UP ON THAT. IF YOU ARE A CANADIAN AND IF YOU ARE DOWN SOUTH AND IF, GOD FORBID, YOU NEED AN ICU BED BECAUSE YOU'VE CONTRACTED COVID-19, WHAT ARE YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING ONE?

Tyler says WELL, I THINK IT PROBABLY DEPENDS A LITTLE BIT WHERE YOU ARE. I MEAN, IF, FOR SOME REASON, YOU'RE A SNOWBIRD IN SOUTH DAKOTA, WHICH STRIKES ME AS UNLIKELY, YOU'RE PROBABLY LESS IN LUCK, BUT CASE COUNTS IN PLACES LIKE CALIFORNIA AND ARIZONA ARE CONSIDERABLY LOWER. I THINK THAT YOUR CHANCES ARE PROBABLY ALL RIGHT OF GETTING ONE, BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, I WOULD I THINK PREFER TO BE IN CANADA WITH, AS SARA SAID EARLIER, THE MEDICAL SYSTEM WE KNOW AND TRUST, COMPARED TO A MEDICAL SYSTEM THAT FEELS LIKE THE WILD WEST A LOT OF THE TIME.

The caption changes to "Producer: Liane Kotler, @LianeKotler."

Steve says UNDERSTOOD. I WANT TO THANK THE THREE OF YOU FOR COMING IN TONIGHT AND HELPING US OUT WITH THIS. THAT'S TYLER DAWSON WITH THE NATIONAL POST AND POSTMEDIA WHO IS OUT OF EDMONTON, ALBERTA WHERE WINTERS I'M TOLD ARE SPECTACULAR EVEN IF THE HOCKEY TEAM ISN'T ALWAYS. YEAH, YOU DIDN'T LIKE THAT LITTLE SHOT, DID YOU? AND WHO AM I TO TALK? I'M SITTING HERE IN TORONTO. SCOTT FAIRLEY IS WITH CAMBRIDGE LLP, HE CAME TO US FROM THE THEATRE DISTRICT OF THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL TONIGHT. AND SARA ALLIN IS WITH THE U OF T's INSTITUTE OF HEALTH POLICY, MANAGEMENT, AND EVALUATION, THE DALLA LANA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND SHE JOINED US FROM THE ANNEX IN THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL. REGARDLESS OF WHETHER ANY OF YOU CAN GET AWAY FOR THE WINTER, I HOPE IT'S A GOOD ONE FOR ALL OF YOU AND THANKS FOR JOINING US ON TVO TONIGHT.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Scott says THANK YOU.

Sara says THANKS VERY MUCH.

Tyler says THANKS.

Watch: Snowbird Migration During a COVID-19 Winter