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Counting the Dead: COVID-19 and Mortality in Québec and British Columbia

The first wave of the pandemic has led to excess mortality across the globe. Canada was no exception. But, the experience of provinces has been very different, and the objective of this paper is to investigate these differences focusing on two extreme cases. We contrast the mortality experience of British Columbia with that of Québec to understand how large differences in mortality during the pandemic emerged across these two provinces. We find that most of the differences can be found in excess mortality in institutions (nursing homes) and that both travel restrictions, differences in how deaths are recorded, differences in the seasonality of the flu or differences in how the pandemic spread across different economic segments of the population cannot explain these differences. We also document that the reported death toll from COVID is larger than excess mortality in Quebec, by about 30%, due to lower mortality from other causes of death, in particular malignant tumors, heart disease and respiratory problems.

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