BY ALEX GREGORY
Welcome to the new era, where uncertainty, mistrust and government confusion is the norm. Last summer, I had a very interesting conversation with a good friend of mine — a long-time community supporter — about COVID-19 during a private get-together to celebrate a mutual friend’s achievement.
We were sitting on his back patio having a drink when he nonchalantly told me that he had not only written 2020 off, but the following year as well. This mindset was, in part, due to his concern over government decisions made over the intervening six months, and his claim that we would be dealing with this pandemic for a long time — not due to apathy on the part of the populace, but due to government confusion.
“This is going to last for years,” he told me. “I’m not doing anything. No events, no participation, nothing. I’m going to focus on redoing my back deck, and I’m writing off next year too.”
At the time, I thought he was slightly crazy for even suggesting that the COVID-19 pandemic would roll on through the winter. Now I realize he was just ahead of the curve. It’s a new year, and government trust has continued to erode, not only here, but abroad.
Last week, an Abacus Data poll suggested that Premier Doug Ford’s popularity has been steadily declining due to the COVID- 19 epidemic, with his net popularity dropping like a rock since August.
The survey found that 40 per cent of those surveyed had a positive view of Ford. This figure was seven points lower than the survey conducted three months ago. The majority of those surveyed say the government had full control of the situation in October, but that figure has now dropped by 25 points to 37 per cent.
When asked about Ford’s handling of the COVID-19 situation in general, 27 per cent said he did not do a good job and made several big mistakes. The results were not as bad, but still hit Liberal leader Steven Del Duca and NDP leader Andrea Horwath as well, with slight decline in perception of their outlook.
If elections were held today, 34 percent of those polled said they would vote for Ford. 29 per cent said they would vote for the Liberals and 25 per cent said they would vote for the NDP.
They’re far from the only ones dealing with trust issues. In the U.K., advertising regulators put a stop to a government ad that suggested people who jogged or walked their dogs were “highly likely” have COVID, after internal complaints that it was scaring residents and causing misrepresentations about the validity of government claims regarding the virus.
The Netherlands have been dealing with nightly riots over COVID curfews. Italy’s prime minister has resigned in disgrace amid renewed restrictions set up before Christmas. Spain has been hitting all time highs, with a reported “third wave” of cases stretching ICUs to their limits, while political candidates jockey for votes amid imminent regional elections.
We’re not immune to political ignorance here, either, with politicians spouting conspiracy theories, prominent officials being accused of physical assault against their own employees, the perception of a rudderless ship and no clear path forward beyond “throw money at every problem and see how long we hold out for.”
That said, I’m not so naive to think that Trump-style politics have made their way up here, or that we’re anywhere close to the quagmire our neighbours down south are facing, unlike the perception certain local outlets have peddled.
I suggested in a previous column that if an election were held this year, that most (if not all) levels of government would most likely be voted out, and time hasn’t changed that opinion.
Politicians keep trying to stall out the virus and throw money at various issues without watching the monetary counter, and without admitting that there are serious, systemic flaws in our health care, long-term care and public systems (to reference a few) that need significant reform and direction, not just vague platitudes about how we’ll all get through this together.