Ontario Premier Doug Ford emerged from his hidey-hole yesterday just long enough to blame Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the teacher’s unions for the closures of the third wave.
Ford had been secreted away for some time. The more people see of Ford, the less they like the man. So, according to a recent CTV story, the Premier’s Office has made a deliberate effort to “protect the king.” There’s good reason to keep the man out of sight: he’s been overseeing an unforgivable series of failures for well over a year now.
This week, we’ve received further clarification of just how badly the province has done.
Military documents obtained by Global News detail the horrific conditions inside two long-term care homes in North York, where residents were dying from COVID-19 as well as neglect. The documents, according to an article published on Monday, stated that, “Twenty-six residents [at a single home] died due to dehydration prior to the arrival of the [Canadian Armed Forces] team due to the lack of staff to care for them. They died when all they [needed] was ‘water and a wipe down.’” Another report said residents at the other home also died because of “dehydration and malnourishment.”
When NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called for Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton to resign due to these sorts of nightmares, she had the nerve — the sheer heartlessness — to say she “will not be spoken to that way.”
On Wednesday, Bonnie Lysyk, the province’s auditor general, released a report finding that Ford’s government promised to “immediately” give pandemic pay increases to health workers, but it took weeks for those funds to reach their bank accounts. It’s hard to say exactly when because they “did not track and were not able to advise [the auditor general’s office] when eligible front-line workers actually began to receive pandemic pay.”
This was part of a pattern in the government’s spending generally, with Lysyk’s report finding that the $4.4 billion Ontario spent on pandemic relief funds wasn’t properly tracked, and the various ministries audited couldn’t properly account for how and where they spent the money with a lack of “consistency in vetting, documenting and reporting back about the programs’ progress.”
Yet despite these findings, Ford took every opportunity he could yesterday to blame anyone else for his predicament. He blamed teacher’s unions for school closures, saying, “On the one hand, we have some doctors saying they want to open the schools. On the other hand, we have the teachers unions saying we can’t do that right now.” (Later on, Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams said the primary reason schools were closed was because case counts were outstripping public health units’ ability to effectively do contact tracing in schools.)
Ford also went on at length about how the borders were the problem and there was nothing he could do. There is a small nugget of truth in Ford’s border talk. The quarantine measures are a joke if a third of people can just walk away from the airport and (maybe) pay the fine. And travellers have since gamed out the loopholes, with plenty of travellers returning from the United States happy to fly to an airport near the border then pay for a cab across it.
But the problem with nuggets of truth is they tend to conceal more than they reveal.
Even if Ford was being truthful when he said he had been calling for stricter border measures “all the way back in December” — which he wasn’t, in December he was “really pushing” to get rid of travel quarantines —why did he lift restrictions in February? And when cases started rising, and modelling showed things would get out of hand, why did he wait?
If Ford was as worried about COVID-19 variants as he said he was, why did he sit on his hands through the late winter and early spring as Ontario raced toward the edge of the abyss?
The answer is simple: Ford wasn’t worried about variants. He wasn’t worried about anything other than winding back restrictions as quickly as possible. But now it’s a convenient excuse to cover for his own ineptitude.
Would a government that had done an otherwise good job need to run attack ads against another level of government? Nah.
This is why Ford hides away; he’s completely full of shit.
So, on the one hand, there’s a benefit to having Ford out of the spotlight. His stink stays sealed in whatever den he spends his days. His lies and his obfuscation stay off the nightly news.
And yet, a leader hiding from the public is also shielding themselves from responsibility. Ford is hoping to avoid the consequences of his inaction. It’s cowardly and it’s pathetic, and in that way it’s authentic. But Ford shouldn’t be able to escape the ire of the public by keeping his head down.
If he can’t handle the spotlight, he should step out of it permanently. If he wanted to walk into the sea, I wouldn’t be the one to stand in his way.