It must have been a cold day in Hell yesterday. Because that is when I thought I would see a mainly positive article about Premier Doug Ford, written by the Toronto Star’s veteran columnist, Martin Regg Cohn. He has seldom been a fan of Conservatives or felt the need to defend them.
Of course, there is the obligatory paragraph in there about everything Ford has done wrong since he was elected, and he had to take a shot at another Conservative premier along the way, but nevertheless, Cohn spared no punches in defending Premier Ford’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, even though, as he acknowledged, it was less than perfect.
The bold headline said, “Ford isn’t the problem with the pandemic.”
Martin Regg Cohn wrote in part, “In a crisis, everyone likes to hate a villain. When a pandemic does not go according to plan, when the playoffs don’t follow the playbook, the critics pounce—most especially opposition politicians, pundits, and exasperated epidemiologists. The temptation is to personalize and politicize and fetishize the problem. Blame the coach.”
How true that is, at both the federal and provincial levels of government. And how sad it is that political leaders, such as Ontario opposition leader Andrea Horwath, feel it important to undermine the government’s efforts to manage the pandemic for their own political purposes. As history has shown, that is simply not appropriate during a time of national crisis.
Cohn goes on to say, “The counterfactual fantasy that Ontario could have magically averted the second wave with more second guessing—if only we had locked down tight many months ago and thrown away the key, doubled classroom space and tripled teacher hiring—is a sterile thought experiment. The wishful thinking that Horwath’s NDP (or a previous or future Liberal government) would save the day, if only Ford would get out of the way, doesn’t have much traction.”
Again, I agree. It is easy to point fingers. It is easy to blame political leaders, both in Ottawa and in Ontario, who are responsible for managing the pandemic, especially if you don’t like their politics in the first place. It is much harder to stand up and be counted and to recognize that there are times when it is necessary to stand together.
The burden of the pandemic on both the prime minister and the premier is obvious. It has aged Trudeau and it has changed Ford. As Martin Regg Cohn said in his column, Ford “has faced the yahoos head on and focused on the medical warnings.” In a different way, perhaps, I believe it is fair to say the same thing about Justin Trudeau.
It is my own view, unpopular as it may be, that when it comes to actually managing the pandemic, both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford have done a good job. Sure, they have made mistakes. They were in unchartered waters. But on balance they have done what needs to be done and continue to do so. There certainly are issues for which both the Ford and Trudeau governments deserve to be criticized, but their management of the COVID-19 pandemic is not one of them.
There is a place where I draw the line, however, and that is when the pandemic and the government subsidies that were provided to help those that really need it have been misused. To me, it is just a sophisticated form of looting. I have no problem with people, businesses, and organizations being kept whole during the pandemic. In fact, I believe it is important to do that as much as possible.
But with the exception of front-line workers, for whom no reward will ever be enough, no one should profit financially on the backs of Canadian taxpayers as a direct result of pandemic funding they were technically eligible to receive from government in order to survive. Break even and hold their own, yes. But profit from it? No.
This is especially so, when the Federal parliamentary budget officer has said that Canada’s current deficit level will be unsustainable “within one to two years”. Frightening to think about that.
I find it disturbing that some corporations are able to pay higher and special dividends to their shareholders as a direct result of government pandemic funding. Or that a golf course in Ottawa can pocket an extra million dollars because of pandemic funding they and their employees received. It just does not pass the smell test. And you can bet your mortgage that these two examples are just the very tip of the iceberg!
It is my view that any person or business that profited financially as a result of pandemic grants should have those profits fully taxed back. It was also not particularly helpful when Prime Minister Trudeau opined that people who obtained CERB grants fraudulently may not have to pay them back if they can’t afford to. Surely that sends the wrong message.
The good news however, is that there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are on their way. There are still some serious challenges ahead of us, but we will get through this.
As we hunker down a little longer, let’s try to be gentle with our criticism and generous in our support and praise for those who are responsible for keeping us well, safe, and economically secure during the course of this pandemic.
After all, this is the season of good will. Let’s see how long we can extend that!
Happy Christmas to all!!
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