As I write this on April 23, Ontario is registering between 3,000 and 4,000 new positive cases of COVID-19 daily with some 700 people in intensive care units and overworked health care workers in need of rescue.
For humanitarian reasons, I support Premier Doug Ford's request for help from other Canadian provinces. Help is needed for people in low-income communities, hospitals, ICUs and wherever the government has refused to bring in paid sick leave.
It is obvious to me that Ford and his cabinet are catering to major corporate funders, the private sector and their base. It is clear that the economy comes before the lives of people.
However, Ford must take responsibility, for the following reasons:
• His government does not take seriously what health professionals recommend.
For ideological reasons, arguably supported by the private sector, he refuses (for the moment, anyway) to implement a sick leave program as an alternative to the inadequate program of the federal government. The federal government only provides a salary a week later, with the requirement to reapply each time the employee requests new sick leave.
Essential workers often work in low-paying jobs. They frequently have to live from paycheque to paycheque. Not getting immediate help could mean not being able to put food on the table.
Sick leave in Ontario was abolished after the Ford government came to power. So what is important? Health or the economy? To have a healthy economy, don't you have to have a healthy workforce? Will he finally see the light of common sense and do an about-face?
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, recently said that in Ontario, one of the COVID-19 variants appears to be a clear winner. The race between the vaccine and the variants is therefore at a critical point. Besides the rollout of vaccines immunization, it is becoming clear that we need tighter control in some areas and less in others.
The Ford government should redistribute vaccines from areas with high income, but few COVID-19 infections, to low-income areas, with high incidences of this virus.
High-income areas in the GTA have pharmacies to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine, compared to few or no pharmacies able to do so in low-income areas. Unfortunately, these neighbourhoods voted NDP in the 2018 provincial election. (Note that Ford's Conservatives won 76 out of 124 seats with 40 per cent of the vote.)
• Doug Ford waited until the vaccine arrived to fix problems in long-term care homes, especially for-profit ones.
• We see the result of electing someone who made labels to oppose the carbon tax by insisting they be stuck on gas pumps. He has no health care expertise. Ford is a populist proud of his simplistic approach.
He is a political animal who is aware of the votes instead of listening to the health experts. What is the point of closing parks, playgrounds and golf courses when workplaces are often contaminated by COVID-19?
• Fortunately there are doctors who have the courage to contradict him and act for the good of the less-protected who do not vote Conservative. Some have issued guidelines ordering businesses with five or more cases of COVID-19 in the past two weeks to shut down for 10 days.
The absence of sick days under provincial law is clearly a major factor in the spread of the pandemic. Yet the premier told us he has the best brains to work on the pandemic. It was then that a reporter asked this question: “So where have they gone?”
Let's hope they show up soon.