Given the justified loathing that Trump arouses in most Canadians, it comes as no surprise that a recent web survey by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies found that Canadians, by a blowout margin of 81 to six per cent, believe that our Prime Minister is doing a better job than the U.S. president of managing the COVID-19 crisis.

And in light of Trump’s shambolic approach to the pandemic, it’s not a complete shock that even among the 1,002 American participants in the survey, forty per cent thought Trudeau was doing a better job, to 32 per cent who chose the performance of the bleach-guzzling, hydroxychloroquine-popping president.

But as is often the case, there’s more here than immediately meets the eye. During the month of May, cases of COVID-19 and deaths from the disease increased at a faster rate in Canada than the U.S. – with a significant difference in the rate of officially reported deaths. Here are the numbers as tracked by Worldometer and Johns Hopkins. (And calculated by me)

May 1 May 31 Increase
Cases Canada      54,784      90,928 66.0%
Cases U.S. 1,082,411 1,779,853 64.4%
Deaths Canada        3,387          7,294 115.4%
Deaths U.S.      65,029 105,926 62.9%

As the table shows, there was only a small difference in increased cases, but deaths went up much faster in Canada, due mainly to two factors. New York, early epicenter of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., peaked in May and began to drop off. In Canada there was a surge in nursing home deaths in Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia, which contributed 30 deaths to the May increase.

All of these numbers need to be approached with caution, given that they are collected by government agencies using using varying testing and reporting procedures. And there’s a special  caveat that needs to be mentioned with regard to U.S. deaths in nursing homes. According to NBC News U.S. death totals are undercounted by at least 20,000, the result of the federal government allowing nursing homes to ignore deaths occurring before May 6. But while adding those deaths would change total U.S deaths to about 126,000 to the end of May it would still leave the U.S. increase in May below Canada’s.

Another metric that Canadian media have used to compare this country favourably with the U.S. is deaths per million. We hear daily that the U.S. has by far the most deaths of any country. But on a per population basis, based on official numbers reported by Worldometer, it ranked only twelfth highest. Adding the estimated 20,000 pre-May 6 nursing home deaths would move the U.S. up to ninth worst but still behind countries like Belgium, Spain, Italy, the U.K., France and Sweden.

In terms of a comparison with Canada, as discussed here, U.S. deaths per million in early April were four times the Canadian rate. But on June 3, even with the additional 20,000 arbitrarily added, the U.S. deaths per million were less than double the Canadian rate – 382 to 199.

Increase in Deaths per million, selected countries

Country April 11 May 5 June 3 May-June Increase
Canada 15 104 199 91.3%
U.S. 59 214 382 78.5%
Spain 350 548 580 5.8 %
Italy 312 485 556 14.6%
Belgium 289 692 822 18.8%
France 202 386 445 15.3%
UK 145 433 585 35.1%

Source: Worldometer

The U.S. number for June 3 is my calculation, based on adding nursing home deaths as per the NBC estimate. The Worldometer number for the U.S. is 329 per million, an increase of only 53.7 per cent from May 5 to June 3, compared with the 91.3 per cent increase for Canada. At 199 deaths per million, Canada ranked 17th in the world and 11th when you don’t count hard hit small and obscure places like San Marino, Andorra, Sint Maarten, Montserrat, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

The point is not to defend the U.S. record but to point out that Canada’s is not a whole lot better. Being content with just clearing the low bar set by Trump could mean many unnecessary Canadian deaths.

Among the G7 countries, Germany and Japan have been much more successful than Canada in limiting the spread and mortality rate of the disease. Germany’s death count stood at 101 per million on June 3, while Japan reported only 903 total deaths, or just seven per million population. Australia and New Zealand are even lower, at four deaths per million. Maybe those are the comparators we should be looking at.