Anniversaries are, generally speaking, a thing we enjoy celebrating. We like to look back to recognize our wedding dates and birthdays because it brings back special, irreplaceable joys from days gone by. Canadians who watch or listen to the news regularly were reminded on January 25th of a much darker anniversary. We were reminded that the 25th was the one year anniversary of the first covid-19 case in Canada. But we have faith that better days are ahead and we’ll celebrate brighter anniversaries such as the discovery of vaccines and maybe even cures one day.
In a recent column I wrote that, given how quickly this pandemic came upon us, we truly have made miraculous advancements in both treatment and prevention of the virus. Just the fact that we even have developed several vaccines in less than a year is miraculous, really. Sometimes when I hear about new developments I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for European families back in the mid-1300s when the epidemic of bubonic plague (called the Black Death) reared its ugly head. They didn’t really know what it was or what caused it, let alone how to prevent or treat those who became infected. If today, the world population is so on edge, even with our advanced research, public health guidance, and medical treatments, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the average family who was basically poor, uneducated without the benefit of any social services or emergency help.
But that was then and this is now. We do have unbelievable resources and knowledge at our fingertips. We have the capability of sharing the latest developments worldwide within moments. Considering all these inestimable resources we have at hand, how is it that Ontario finds itself in such a state – even if compared only to other provinces in Canada.
The Ontario Government has the most up to date data and information quite literally at their fingertips. The greatest minds are working globally together to develop plans and formulas on how to best handle this pandemic. We have the knowledge, funding, and technology to make good decisions. But what we do with that knowledge, funding, and technology makes all the difference. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “Ah, but there’s the rub.”
The key is to use all three effectively, but the most important skill our leaders must possess is listening to those who actually do know, not those who have …agendas. The problem is that Doug Ford is listening to and following the advice of lobbyists, insiders, and supporters rather than to our own public health experts. He is basing decisions on politics rather than upon scientific and medical-based data-driven advice — at an unforgivable cost to Ontarians.
There is a definite pattern to how Doug Ford is making decisions in this second wave. It is well documented that Ford has been ignoring public health experts — including all those who recommend implementing paid sick days, more staff and infection prevention and control experts in long-term care, and smaller class sizes in schools.
The Ford government has shamefully dragged its heels and taken half-measures in long-term care. There are billions of dollars available to the government that is not being spent because Doug Ford just wants to hang on to it. He has refused offers of military aid in long-term care homes struggling with horrible COVID-19 outbreaks. He has bold facedly protected for-profit corporations — allowing them to put their bottom line ahead of the care and quality of life of seniors. It’s time for an overhaul to stop the terrible living conditions and preventable deaths.
Just days ago, the Toronto Star revealed that the Ford government was advised by professional health officials to set a classroom cap of 15 and a large in-school asymptomatic testing program— but Ford chose half-measures instead. The result of this decision-making strategy is that parents, teachers, education workers, and children are living with anguish, frustration, and fear about education right now. There have been more than 7,300 school-based cases of COVID-19, and thousands of families are struggling to manage at-home learning because their school is closed, or they don’t feel safe there. And, here in the north where we lag so far behind in terms of access to affordable, modern broadband service, homeschooling is a major issue my office hears about every single day from so many suffering families. Doug Ford has had the expert advice, the power, and the money to fix this – and he chose not to. He chose saving money over saving kids’ health and their education.
Doug Ford chooses not to listen to the province’s own public health experts, doctors, and scientists. When he didn’t listen, some experts felt compelled to share their experiences with the public. The next thing we hear is that those who were critical of the Ford government found themselves being undermined, targeted, or harassed for expressing their professional opinion. Ford chose not to stand up for Ontario’s expert advisers. It’s well documented that Ford has been ignoring public health experts.
Ford needs to stop listening to lobbyists and his insiders, and start following the advice of public health experts who have said clearly that the only way to control this virus is to invest in critical supports like paid sick leave, more long-term care staff, more isolation facilities and on-site workplace testing. For every day that Doug Ford sits on unspent COVID-19 funds, there will be more suffering and despair in our province that could have been prevented.