With Ontario's ICU beds nearing capacity and our healthcare system on the brink, it has been a week of unprecedented chaos and confusion in Ontario politics.
On Friday, the Ford government responded to the biggest health crisis our province has ever faced with new police powers and a clampdown on playgrounds and outdoor sports. Not only did these new measures suggest that the devastation of the third wave is the fault of individual Ontarians, but it completely ignored the advice of the independent Science Advisory Table. Experts on the Science Advisory Table considered immediately resigning, and physicians responded with anger and despair.
Law enforcement agencies, including the London Police Services Board and the London Police Association, rejected the extension of police powers. Anti-racism and civil rights advocates warned that increased policing will unfairly target the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities that have already been hardest hit by COVID-19. Families rallied against the closure of playgrounds, and people launched petition campaigns to reopen outdoor recreational amenities.
In a stunning turnaround, the Ford government partially walked back some of the new measures. Playgrounds remain open, and instead of randomly stopping people, police can only stop people they "suspect" of participating in an organized public event or social gathering. A similar reversal took place just a week earlier, when the Minister of Education told parents on Sunday that schools would remain open, and Doug Ford announced the next day that schools would close.
This is a government that is flailing and a Premier who has lost his way.
Data clearly shows that workplaces are the major source of COVID-19 transmission. We saw this in our own community when 82 workers tested positive at the Cargill plant. But rather than close all truly non-essential workplaces and support workers with paid sick days and paid time off to vaccinate, the Ford government blamed essential workers for causing the spread. This may finally be changing, with the announcement that some form of paid sick leave is being considered.
This government's sudden policy reversals and mixed, confusing messages – whether it comes to school safety or how to book a vaccine – have undermined public trust. And its failure to take strong and effective action early on has dragged us into a lockdown much longer than it needed to be.
We are worried about rising case counts in London. We are worried about a 25% reduction in our vaccine supply when one of our neighbourhoods has the highest positivity rate in Ontario. We are worried about what happens when physicians are forced to make unthinkable decisions about who gets an ICU bed.
It's easy to feel powerless right now – but we can't give up hope and we can’t stop pushing for action that will really make a difference. The Official Opposition will keep proposing legislative changes to fight COVID-19 and we will keep calling on MPPs across party line – and all Ontarians – to join us.
We will get through this. Take care and stay safe,
Although my community office is closed to in-person meetings, we remain available to help with provincial programs and services by phone at 519-657-3120 or by email at [email protected]