I must confess that there have been moments in recent times (not too many fortunately) when I have wished that Kathleen Wynne was still premier of Ontario. Now that I have caught your attention, let me explain why.
When it comes to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe that in many ways Premier Doug Ford and his government are getting a bum rap. Have they made mistakes? Yes. Could some things have been done differently? Of course.
On balance, however, in spite of the endless finger-pointing and couch-potato critics, the Ford Government has handled the myriad complications that come with a world-wide, game-changing pandemic as well as anyone else. In spite of wishful thinking by partisans, there would be no significant difference if Kathleen Wynne were still premier or if premier-wannabes Andrea Horwath and Steven Del Duca (whose only mantra so far is that if Ford is in favour of it, they are against it) were in the cat seat.
Well-known pollster Angus Reid observed recently that the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a surge of criticism of Doug Ford. Indeed, his public support has dropped to 32 per cent. But many people are tired, frustrated, and angry over the restrictions brought on by COVID-19 and finding someone to blame is predictable and easy. Would it be any different if someone else was premier? I doubt it.
The Ford Government has been widely accused of hoarding vaccines and not having the infrastructure to get them into people’s arms. Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu this past Tuesday perpetuated this by stating that Ottawa has delivered more than four million vaccine doses to Ontario and that “only” 2.5 million have been administered. She is factual in that statement, but it clearly leaves the impression that there are 1.5 million vaccines sitting around somewhere in Ontario.
What she purposefully failed to mention, however, is that more than a million of those vaccines had just been delivered to the province in the previous two days and over the Easter holiday weekend when much of the country was shut down. At the time of Hajdu’s statement on Tuesday, the province barely had had the time to even open the boxes.
Nevertheless, this week has been a record for the Province when it comes to vaccinating people. It has proven that once the vaccine was available, the infrastructure set up by the provincial government is working. This has happened not because Doug Ford suddenly woke up, but rather because sufficient vaccines finally became available and the province was ready for them. Assuming the flow of vaccines continues, the Ford Government predicts it will have vaccinated 40 per cent of adults in Ontario within the next four weeks. If achieved, that will be remarkable.
We are now well into a third phase of COVID-19 and its variants. Today, Ontario is reporting nearly 4,500 infections on Saturday, a record and a disturbing one. Opposition leader Andrea Horwath has said that Premier Ford has marched Ontario straight into a third wave of this pandemic. That is incorrect. We have been in the midst of a global third wave surge for the eighth week in a row. Canada, including Ontario, is not immune.
It is fair to wonder, however, if actions taken previously by the Ford Government would have lessened the effect of the third wave on Ontario. That will always be a matter of conjecture. But it has always been a balancing act and, at the end of the day, it has always depended on the behaviour of individuals.
If the government had completely shut down the province for, say, the past six months as some had suggested in an effort to contain a surge, would we have accepted that or would it be inviting civic rebellion, some of which we have already witnessed? Was it important to balance the economy, financial viability for individuals, and people’s mental health with the reality of having to control the virus? Should the Province have taken police-state measures to deal with anti-maskers, pandemic deniers, and the thousands of individuals that ignored crowd gathering restrictions? We will all have our views in second-guessing what should have been done, but it really is a damned if you do and damned if you don’t scenario.
Perhaps a better title for this article would have been, “In defense of Doug Ford” but I really do feel we are firing too many missiles here. One further example includes the condition of nursing homes, a problem that has been evident over at least four previous administrations, and only the Ford Government has established an arm’s length panel to do something about it. In relation to COVID-19, it should also be noted that in January of this year there were 774 COVID-related deaths in long-term care homes in Ontario. In February there were 201 deaths and in March there were nine deaths. I don’t recall Ms. Horwath or Mr. Del Duca mentioning that!
For the record and for those with pen in hand to jump on me for defending Doug Ford, let me say this: If you actually read my previous articles related to COVID-19, you will have seen that I have been critical of the Ford Government on several issues related to their management of the pandemic. Conversely, although there are many aspects to the Trudeau Government’s responsibilities in relation to the current pandemic, I have only been critical of one of them, and that is the timely acquisition of vaccines. On that, based on other countries on a per capita basis, the record speaks for itself.
The bottom line on all of this is that people have to get vaccinated. Vaccines must be available, and they must get into people’s arms. That is the only way we get to control this pandemic. Finger-pointing and second-guessing, no matter how much we enjoy it, simply won’t cut it.
To that end, I applaud the editorial in Saturday’s Toronto Star. It was a cogent argument for promoting mass vaccinations. Two paragraphs stood out to me.
The first was, “For make no mistake: if we are going to get to the level of ‘herd immunity’ necessary to defeat COVID-19 in all its variant forms, a polite ‘please get a shot’ won’t be enough. The message is going to have to be a lot tougher, and it will include making clear that getting vaccinated will be needed to do some basic things like travel or attending big events.”
The other was, “Getting to a level of vaccination that will allow us to safely reopen society, without fear of yet more outbreaks and lockdowns, is the most essential task we face.”
Amen to that.
Let’s just concentrate on getting people vaccinated.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc. and enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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