BY ALEX GREGORY
Ford fiddled while Peel and other regions burned. In the process of writing this, I was tempted to post the words I wrote for a previous column, written at the onset of the previous provincial lockdown three months ago, with the accompanying statement, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
How else would you describe the response from our provincial leaders over the past few weeks? Having the education minister proudly proclaim that schools will stay open when the province has done virtually everything in its power to undercut him with statements to the contrary? Building up the hopes of patio owners, restaurants and small businesses by finally loosening restrictions, then pulling the rug out from under them again?
The vaccine rollout; less said, the better. A visibly sick health minister parading in front of cameras earlier this week, fueling rumors that she’s passed COVID to everyone in Queen’s Park. The spur-of-the-moment decisions and plans that seem to come out of left field and are informed by social media responses on the back of strategic press leaks. Never mind the bad optics of vaccine clinics in dense urban centres throughout the GTA sitting vacant as tens of thousands of vaccine doses sit unused, the inconveniently timed scandal over a press secretary being caught out with a Toronto Sun reporter, or the incompetence of our provincial and local leaders blaming Peel for a high concentration of manufacturing workers that are stuck between a rock and a hard place as they try to navigate outbreaks while putting food on the table.
We’ve been living in a clown world for the past world, and the circus shows no signs of stopping. Honk honk. Can’t wait to see the trapeze act. It wasn`t enough that we`ve known for weeks where the hotspot postal codes are in Peel, Toronto and other regions, and yet this whole concept of introducing mobile vaccination clinics and inoculating anyone 18 and over (along with a priority focus on the manufacturing sector) should have been done at least three weeks ago — not Wednesday morning, in a cabinet conference where the idea to non-ironically try to enforce charges against residents moving from region to region was flouted.
If you want people to take you seriously, be stringent, be prompt, and decide on these weeks in advance. You shouldn`t be relying on Twitter and Facebook to drive lockdown policies at the eleventh hour. Evidently, many in our business community agree.
An open letter published by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Wednesday evening shared the same sentiments towards the province’s business community. “Closures buy us time at a high cost to business, our economy, as well as the mental and the long-term health of Ontarians.
We recognize the restrictions brought in today are to help save lives and curtail the spread of the virus. However, in absence of further supports, new restrictions will simply devastate Ontario’s business community,” OCC president Rocco Rossi and Mississauga Board of Trade CEO David Wojcik wrote in an open letter. “An expedited vaccine roll-out prioritizing essential workers who cannot work from home is critical to preventing these stops and starts that are so damaging for business. With the Ontario Business Support Grant coming to a close, we call for continued supports that will see businesses through the third wave of the crisis.”
After all, the small and medium sized businesses will continue to take the punches, just as they did during the last lockdown. Do you remember how well “essential goods only” at big box retail worked the last time around? I do. Ropes being placed in aisles at Costco and Walmart in an attempt to funnel people into fewer aisles.
The alternative (actually redesigning stores to limit nonessential items) is such a logistical nightmare that I can’t fathom anyone in a position of power would take it seriously, especially with such short notice. I suppose I should be fair, though — Ford has lived up to his stance on job creation… by creating subindustries where you can get your hair done and all your personal services taken care of on the sly. It’s like I’ve taken a time machine to 1920’s Chicago, Can’t wait for the underground speakeasies that will pop up in Peel.
This is the third kick at the can. We’ve tried, and failed, at curtailing this twice before, and we’re barely further ahead than when this whole mess started a year ago. If people are unironically comparing the Premier to someone like California Governor Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall crisis over his inability to handle the pandemic, how do you think this government is going to be viewed three-to six months down the line?
Where is the credible, consistent leadership? Telling us we’re your “friends” isn’t enough, Doug. Lastminute solutions aren’t the way to go, and consistent, structured, capable planning is needed to get us past this pandemic and on the road to recovery