Featured Story Rants

Doug Ford had the chance but he blew it again

Written by Norris McDonald

I don’t get it. I really don’t get it.

Since last Thursday, or thereabouts, those of us who live in Ontario have been told that the health-care system here is on the brink of collapse and to prepare for drastic action needed to get the explosion of COVID-19 cases under control.

We got something, but it wasn’t drastic. I anticipated a stronger reaction from Premier Doug Ford and his Conservative cabinet after what I found to be lacking in his last announcement.

But he’s done it again. Actually, he hasn’t done it again. That’s the point. What will go into effect at 12:01 Thursday is yet again just another half-assed PR stunt that will do next-to-nothing beyond what’s happened to this point.

For instance, you tell me what the directive concerning the construction industry means. This is what Jennifer Pagliaro wrote about it in the Toronto Star:

“ ‘Non-essential’ construction must now stop. (But) there is a long list of what is considered essential construction. It includes, according to the premier’s office, projects connected to health care, long-term care, schools and transit as well as manufacturing projects that were due to be completed by July and residential builds that had footing permits and had started construction before Tuesday.”

See? There are so many loopholes there that you could drive a cement truck through most of them. There were more than 500,000 construction workers who drove to and from work in this province the first three days of this week and most of them will still be driving to work when this latest lockdown kicks in on Thursday. Which means, it means nothing.

And continuing to allow Costco and Walmart to continue doing business as usual while either locking down the competition or restricting them to curbside service is the biggest puzzle of all. One Tory insider said the other day that they were doing this to enable consumers to enjoy “one-stop shopping,” which sure sounds an awful lot like promoting big U.S. business over small Canadian – to me, anyway. You know, dropping into Walmart to pick up some vegetables, some underwear and a 60-inch TV. One-stop shopping. Yup.

Now, I know people pretty well. I’ve been around. I can tell you right now that Ford is not feeling particularly good about shutting down small business while letting the big-box stores make out like bandits. That’s why we got the bluster that we’ve come to expect from this guy. He said, in so many words Tuesday, that he was going to be keeping a close eye on those big-box stores and if they weren’t adhering to social-distance guidelines, he would come down on them “like an 800-pound gorilla.”


Nobody in Ontario believes the bluster any more because it’s all fake. He told the tow-truck bandits the same thing six or eight months ago and we’re still waiting after he said, and I quote: “We’re coming for you.” There are other examples but you get my drift.

The problem with Ford is that he tries to make everybody happy. He met with his cabinet for five hours on Monday night and, presumably,  listened to all viewpoints. Then he and his closest advisers came to the decisions we’re going to be living under starting at 12:01 Thursday. I’m sure he heard a range of suggestions, from a full and total lockdown to let everything open up again. He knows in his heart he had to be tougher than he was the last time but he also wants to be re-elected and if he drops the hammer and a month from now the needle hasn’t moved, the boo birds, already chirping, will become unbearable.

But he’s not being decisive and that’s as bad as doing nothing. The construction industry should have been put on furlough for 30 days. The big-box stores should be allowed to sell food and pharmaceuticals but everything else should be off-limits. Those two moves would go a long way to settling this thing down.

When they talk about the health-care system being in crisis and on the verge of collapse, it’s the people in the system who are in crisis and close to the breaking point. Doctors, nurses – everybody – haven’t had a day off since last March. They had to work through the holidays. If they start to burn out, then we will really be in the soup. (An aside: have you ever seen anyone burn out? It’s not nice. I dealt with writers most of my career and it’s scary to watch a National Newspaper Award nominee sitting at his desk and unable to write a sentence. Now that you have the picture, think of that happening to doctors and nurses. They go to work but they don’t know what to do. Or they know what to do but can’t bring themselves to do it. Even more scary.)

So we’re in this war and if you absolutely have to win that war, you will do anything and everything necessary. Doug Ford might talk a lot but it’s clear he really hasn’t gotten the message yet. By the time he does, pray to God that it’s not too late.