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EDITORIAL: Ford chooses wrong path, again (May 2021)

June 15th, 2021 · No Comments

And this month in Ontario politics: Premier Doug Ford, yet again summons the experts for their advice, and pledges to follow their lead. And yet again, once advice is received, promptly goes off in a wildly different direction. This month, the experts told Ford it was safe to re-open schools for the month of June. They told him schools need to be opened not just for the sake of education, but for the sake of mental health. Yet here we are, with schools closed until September.

When pressed by reporters as to why Ontario is the only jurisdiction in the country with schools still closed, Ford blamed the federal government. Ugh? Constitutionally, it’s the provinces that look after education. Besides, Ontario had 15 months to get education workers fully vaccinated, 15 months to get schools properly ventilated and class sizes reduced. We are so far behind on these fronts that Ford has stopped short of promising a return to normal schooling this coming September. Somehow, according to Ford, it’s Trudeau’s fault because Ontario has a porous border with the United States. Six other provinces share the same border and their schools are open. When confronted by reports on this discrepancy, he attributed Ontario’s position to the fact we have a relatively large population. Does he make this up as he goes?

What’s actually happening here is that Ford is skipping ahead to next year’s election campaign and is allowing internal polling to guide health policy decisions. In a survey commissioned by the Conservatives, of 1,246 people across the province asked whether Ontario should “re-open schools for three weeks in June even if that means Ontario’s re-opening plan is delayed by one week,” 56 per cent rejected that trade-off. 

So when he tells us, “the health of Ontario’s children is our top priority,” some of us might have a hard time swallowing it. 

When schools were open, he refused to release the rapid testing units. The government promised 50,000 school COVID-19 tests would be done weekly, a program he called “robust.”  However, tests never exceeded 8,213 per week, which is less than 17 percent of what was promised. Now all those rapid tests (provided for free by the federal government) are sitting in some provincial warehouse waiting to expire. What a shame.

In an opinion piece published in the National Post, Dr. Alanna Golden and Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng argued that many students attend school to be fed and to get support. They also noted that school is where a majority of domestic abuse gets reported. Here we are in a situation where families are stressed financially, domestic violence is on the rise, and students are literally dropping off of ZOOM radar. But schools won’t open until the end of summer.

The decision to not prioritize educational workers at the outset, including administrative and caretaking staff, is at the heart of the problem. Even now most have only received their first vaccine doses. If schools do re-open now and something goes wrong, the Conservative’s chances of forming another government will be further diminished.  Ford’s bias against teachers is coming back to haunt him. His playing politics in a pandemic is pathetic. 

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