Confucius said it: “May you live in interesting times.” He wasn’t extending his best wishes. It was a curse.
We live in interesting times indeed, with many serious challenges to face. Climate change of course is one of them. So is economic instability and inequality. And there are others. But nothing is more currently important, in my view, than managing and controlling the COVID-19 pandemic that has been thrust upon us. If we cannot do that, little else may matter.
This pandemic is nothing less than a plague. It has killed people. It has also challenged and indeed it has changed our societal norms. It has directly and negatively affected most people’s lives. It has severely limited what we are able to do and what we are able to accomplish. It is having a serious effect on many people’s mental health and after more than a year of restrictions, it is leading to frustration, anger, and even civil unrest. Most of us are desperate to see that light at the end of the tunnel.
And so, in my view, it is important to continue to write about this. This week, I have some questions and some concerns about the manner in which the Ontario Government is managing these later stages of the pandemic.
But before I get to that, I want to circle back to the article I wrote last week about the abysmal record of the federal government in getting COVID-19 vaccines into people’s arms. Man, was I beaten up on that!
I don’t often let comments related to my articles get to me. In fact, I encourage debate and disagreement. That is the purpose of “Listen Up!” But insinuations of shallow analysis, lack of research, writing drivel and so on does get my back up.
For the record, while opinions I express are just that, and are mine alone, they are based on research and decades of experience in public policy and politics at all three levels of government, including the three major political parties. But when I state something as a fact, rather than an opinion, that is what it is. It has been researched and it has been fact-checked. It is not off the top of my head.
The Trudeau Government has done a decent job in many aspects of their management of the COVID-19 pandemic. But nothing is more important to defeating this plague than a timely and steady flow of vaccines. In this regard, the federal government is failing miserably. The evidence is clear and overwhelming on that, and it is based on fact.
Today, on a per capita basis, Canada stands 52nd in the world, when it comes to vaccinating its people against COVID-19. The United States is 11th, the United Kingdom is 12th. How can that be defended? And in spite of wanting to support politicians we may otherwise admire, shouldn’t we be concerned about that?
To turn a blind eye to such a serious national dereliction, to pretend it is not a problem, to not insist on accountability and a better performance, reminds me somewhat sadly of those Republican politicians in the United States, so set in their partisanship, that they still believe Donald Trump won the recent presidential election despite all evidence to the contrary.
Turning now to Ontario, while like the Trudeau Government, the Ford Government has managed many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic well, there are still some areas in which they can do better.
In a nutshell, the Province’s communications strategy needs to be vastly improved. People are confused.
A lack of clarity about what some announced changes actually mean is a serious issue. Many people are finding it difficult to understand, on a clear and defined basis, what they can and cannot do and when they can do it. In a number of instances, the lines are not clear and often there is too much room for interpretation.
This leads to uncertainty, frustration, anger, and disobedience. The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a plague. It is also a war, and clarity, clear and unambiguous messaging, in a time of war is essential to its outcome.
People also don’t understand inconsistencies in some of the Ford Government’s decisions, such as requiring small businesses, with limited capacity to survive, to completely close under lockdown, and yet allow the big box stores, carrying many of the same products, to remain completely open just because they also sell groceries. There has not been a good explanation for this and there needs to be.
As well, it has been reported that provinces have stockpiles of millions of rapid COVID-19 tests that have not been distributed. In Ontario, only 18 per cent of these have been utilized. According to the Province of Alberta there appears to be a good explanation for the slow distribution. But we have not heard about that in Ontario and we need to.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly. We need to know the Province’s plan for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, especially once they are fully flowing. The machinery to vaccinate people in Ontario quickly and efficiently must be in place. We need to know where the vaccination sites are going to be, whether they will be decentralized and quickly accessible to most people. We need to know if our local pharmacies are going to be able to provide the vaccine. And we need to know if there will be an effective way of letting people directly know when and where they can be vaccinated, perhaps by OHIP records, to schedule individual appointments.
A friend of mine recently posted a comment on the article I wrote last week. In conclusion, he said this in relation to the pandemic: “I need to feel some hope that the end is near. Otherwise, I will feel only despair and that may prove to be as dangerous as the disease itself.” I share that point of view and, as I said earlier in this article, a light at the end of the tunnel is essential.
But we cannot sugar-coat the situation we are currently in.
In a recent media scrum, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, was asked by a reporter, “I am a bit confused by this presentation. Am I missing something here? Or is this presentation actually predicting a disaster?”
Dr.Brown’s answer: “No, I don’t think you are missing anything.”
If Premier Doug Ford is listening to the scientists and the healthcare experts as he says he is, this must be chilling.
I fully understand that the challenge for governments during this time, especially provincial governments, is to find and execute the fine line between keeping people as safe as possible and protecting other essential elements of our society such as the economy, our mental health, and civil behaviour. I recognize the risks, but I support them in that effort.
But if we truly want to see light at the end of the tunnel, we must recognize the severity of our current situation. That means taking personal responsibility for things that need to be done, like wearing masks and practising social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and avoiding crowds. It also means supporting our elected officials in a tough battle but, as well, holding their feet to the fire for things that are important during this pandemic.
That includes a much speedier acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines, an effective and reliable distribution process, and crystal-clear messaging from both levels of government.
That will provide the hope and the resolve that will open the window we are all looking for.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!