Friday, May 14, 2021

A Rough Week For Premier Ford

It has certainly been a rough week for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, with Ontarians becoming increasingly frustrated with bungled plans and mixed messages, and calls for his resignation have been growing. Even a column in the Washington Post has called for Ford to resign.

At the outset of this pandemic, Premier Ford was praised, even by the likes of me, no fan of the Premier, for his calm handling of the situation, for not politicizing the ordeal, and for pledging to be open and transparent with Ontarians. We should all know everything the Premier knows, at least that is what he told us many months ago.

The third wave of this pandemic has been crushing for Ontario. Positive cases are surging as are hospital admissions, and though the vaccine program has been rolled out, progress has seemed painfully slow, and the process has been fraught with frustration for many.

The final straw for many it would seem was the Premier’s announcement last week of new restrictions that included the closure of parks and other outdoor amenities, a move at odds with the advice of medical experts who insist that transmission outdoors is much less likely than indoors. The Premier had to quickly walk back that plan, as he had to with his announcement that police in Ontario were to be given special powers to pull anyone over at any time to inquire about a person’s reasons for not being at home. Ontarians were quick to express outrage at the notion of police officers empowered to stop anyone they chose with or without just cause.

For many, the recent restrictions imposed by the province are a matter of too little, too late, and Ontarians are tired of seeing small businesses shuttered while big box stores charge ahead at full steam. Ontarians are tired of mixed messages – is it safe outdoors or not?

In spite of any actions that have been taken thus far, the virus is now out of control in Ontario. Where we were once (just weeks ago) aiming to have daily case counts drop below 1,000, we are now seeing well over 4,000 new cases per day, and the modelling warns of some 18,000 positive tests daily if new restrictions were not imposed.

With all of the frustration, anxiety, and uncertainty facing Ontario residents, it is perhaps no surprise that we have reached the stage where many would like to see the Premier resign. Ontarians seem to have lost faith in Ford’s ability to lead our government through this pandemic; many no longer believe what he tells us, and who can blame us?

The drums have been beating ever louder in this province for guaranteed paid sick days. Paid sick days could go a long way in a pandemic such as this to ensure that those who are sick can stay home and still pay the rent, but Ford and his caucus simply can’t bring themselves to support it. Ontarians aren’t stupid – we know that paid sick days should not be a luxury of a few in the province, it should be afforded to all, for the benefit of all, and the fact that Ford won’t entertain such a simple initiative has angered many in the province.

To be fair, Premier Ford is not the only leader who has failed us. Our federal government has taken a very hands-off approach thus far, leaving the provinces to do all of the heavy lifting. Personally, in the face of a global pandemic I would have expected more from our federal government, but Premier Ford can’t, try as he might, hide behind the failures of other levels of government, he has to own the failures of his own government, something I am not sure his ego would allow.

So the calls grow louder for Premier Ford to resign. What would actually be accomplished if he were to resign, I’m not so sure, but I have heard many suggest in recent days that Ford has to go, so resignation or not, his odds in the next election are certainly dwindling at the moment.

Ontarians are right to be frustrated with the performance of their provincial government during this pandemic. We can’t expect perfection when battling a new and unexpected virus that is highly contagious and can be deadly, but we should expect straight talk, transparency, and honesty, and I am not so sure that is what we have received, particularly in this third wave of the pandemic.

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