By: Alex Gregory
Several months ago, I was asked by a good politician friend what I thought about the way premier “Ford” had handled the COVID-19 pandemic at its onset.
I told him at the time that he was doing about as well as could be expected.
Now, I’m not so sure. Here we sit, on the cusp of another lockdown that will stretch into the new year. The outlook for small and medium-sized businesses in the GTA is bleak, with more and more closing by the day.
Premier Ford has taken to instigating a war of words with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the country’s borders and the lack of testing on inbound international travellers, referencing a supposed new strain of COVID-19 that is much more virulent.
A nice sentiment, but the time to institute such testing was months ago, not during one of the busiest holiday periods of the year. It’s like trying to stop a dam that’s in the process of bursting with a wine cork. Do you want a reason why case counts are exploding?
Look no further than big-box stores, which are experiencing some of their highest loads of the year as hundreds cram in for last-minute shopping. Photos, videos and personal anecdotes concerning people crammed in “mask to mask” litter social media, and it’s clear that any chance of trying to rein in such behaviour through local and provincial by-laws simply wasn’t going to work. Nor was there any plan put into place to protect the fortunes of businesses that desperately needed the support and were on the cusp of closing.
Frankly, there has been a lot of confusion, incompetence and naivete at all system levels. The province adjourned on Dec. 9 for a two-month break, just as case counts dramatically rose in hard-hit regions like Peel and Toronto – and they won’t be back until Feb. 16, instead of spending the time firing off releases crowing about temporary supports that are unlikely to get to the entrepreneurs and businesses that truly need it.
Of course, that didn’t stop certain MPPs (and some of our local municipal politicians) from participating in a flurry of press conferences and photo-ops boasting about holiday initiatives. While I appreciate the sentiment as a member of the media, I’d rather see our elected officials doing more to support our local food banks and hardest hit businesses than hosting an in-person Christmas parade and showing up at vaccination photo dopes.
Meanwhile, the feds, when they weren’t busy trying to downplay the fears of 440,000 Canadians who had received “education letters” from the Canada Revenue Agency regarding unclear eligibility for the CERB program, were busy gobbling up support for potential 2022 candidates just before the holiday break. It’s probably fair to say that 2020 was a rough year for Trudeau, between the WE Charity scandal, a proposed Clean Fuel Standard carbon tax that has the potential to wreak havoc on low- and middle-income families, and the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic.
Interestingly, an Ipsos Reid poll commissioned by Global News earlier this week found that Trudeau’s chances to win a majority in the next federal election have remained flat, with 35 percent support from participants versus 32 percent for the Conservatives. If an election were called today, I feel that there would be a significant shakeup in both the provincial and federal governments, though Trudeau would likely hang on only because the Conservatives haven’t mounted any credible opposition in the interim.
And what of our local leaders? We’ve seen repeated promises and pledges from many of our municipal representatives and local leaders to go after COVID rule-breakers and those skirting by-laws, but let’s be honest here: few people are going to rat out their neighbours for hosting a private holiday get-together, despite the overwhelming warnings and direct requests from public health units to disregard in-person Christmas celebrations.
With a lockdown stretching through the end of January in Peel, the effectiveness of widespread vaccinations months away and no clear end in sight for the pandemic, 2021 will be the real litmus test for whether our various levels of government rise to the occasion or fall flat on their faces.
:-Alex Gregory is Digital/Content Specialist and Writer in Mississauga