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EDITORIAL: Ford’s half measures (Jan. 2021)

January 27th, 2021 · No Comments

New projections warn that the new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus could result in Ontario seeing 40,000 new infections per day in February. Meanwhile, the province has announced a state of emergency allowing the government, with the support of cabinet, to introduce new public health orders more quickly. This could be a good thing, depending on how the powers are used. It’s hard to be hopeful, though, when the province is led by a premier who seems so determined to deliver mixed messages and sweeping regulations riddled with enormous loopholes.

On Tuesday, January 12, Premier Ford announced stay-at-home orders to take effect two days later, at which point, Ford said, police would begin to hand out tickets to anyone who leaves home for anything beyond the “essentials.” Apparently, this was news to the police. Spokespeople for the police said simply that if they encountered a large group gathering in public they would break it up, or if they received a complaint about an adamant anti-masker in a grocery store, they would attend to it. 

“A person taking their dog on a nightly stroll is not going to have to worry about a police officer pulling them over,” said Joe Couto, who represents the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. “We have to use common sense.”

Mayor John Tory called for rule-makers to be clear and consistent in their messaging. Premier Ford did not seem to agree, replying that, “if you feel your trip is not essential, it probably isn’t.”

There are definitely a few details that warrant some scrutiny and clarification. In his announcement, Premier Ford said that all construction must cease unless it is deemed essential. One might consider hospital expansion or the repair of a collapsed sewer or old bridge to be considered essential. However, instead of a short list, there is a very long list of construction projects deemed essential. In a nutshell, they include just about anything that is already underway. In other words, construction is considered essential, and will not be stopped. 

No retail business or food establishment within this newspaper’s distribution is impacted by the announcement. Retail remains open for curbside pick-up and restaurants for take-out. One might wonder if this is not a contradiction. If a citizen can only leave home for, “essentials” are we considering the goods sold at a store like EB Games essential? Faced with this logic problem the government announced (the day after Ford’s presser) that anything that is open for curbside pick-up is deemed essential. In other words, all shopping is essential. Big box stores remain open but must now close at 8pm. Ford tried to announce a 50% capacity limit in those venues but was forced to admit that this rule was already in effect. 

“I will come down on them like a 800-lb guerrilla if they exceed store limits,” he boasted. Walmart is surely shaking with fear at this statement. 

The only good thing the province has done right here is keeping schools closed a little longer. The health minister announced, as if it was a revelation, that this may have the net effect of keeping more people home as they need to care for their children.

Vaccine rollout in Ontario, a provincial responsibility, has been inconsistent at best. Many long-term care homes with outbreaks are yet to see a single vaccine, while hospital workers seeing no patients and working from home have had open access. Angry at any criticism, Ford has tried to blame the federal government for supply issues, but according to the feds the delivery to the provinces is right on schedule and Canada has more in the pipeline per capita than any country in the world. 

Ford recently announced that Prime Minister Trudeau has agreed to send the military to help get outbreaks in long-term care homes under control. Unsurprisingly, he’s got no clear answer to what the military will do. Like every other measure this premier takes, we’re seeing too little and too late. With a crisis of this magnitude, Ontario needs real leadership, and Premier Ford keeps proving that’s something he does not have the chops to deliver. 



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