Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday January 14, 2021
Based on new lockdown measures, Doug Ford isn’t getting it
The latest version of Ontario’s quasi-sort-of-not-quite lockdown will be remembered more for what it does not do than what it does do.
First, the usual disclaimer: Few people would disagree that the Ford government is working feverishly at changing trajectory of this pandemic. Whatever it is doing wrong, it’s not for lack of effort.
But the latest measures really amount to a little of this and a little of that.
Ontario is in a state of emergency, which demonstrates that the government fully appreciates the seriousness of the situation, but does little else. The government has issued a “stay-at-home” order which certainly sounds serious but really amounts to what most of us are already doing: locking down, not having people into our houses and venturing out only for essential reasons like food and exercise.
It gave police the authority to oversee that order, but has not made details clear.
It is telling employers that anyone who can work from home must do so, which is the status quo for the most part. And it is requiring masks in workplaces that do remain open, which again is largely the status quo.But let’s consider what the province is not doing.
It is not ordering non-essential retailers to close their doors, as was the case at the outset of the first wave. Instead they must close for curbside shopping by 8 p.m. Non-essential manufacturing businesses can stay open.
It is not directing the closure of things like libraries, playgrounds and skating rinks as was the case in the first lockdown.
And critically, it is not mandating paid sick leave to vulnerable workers in sectors like manufacturing, transportation and warehousing.
We know that many people in these sectors, who are working in low-paying, low security jobs, with few or no benefits, are either working poor or close to it. It’s easy for Ford to say that when they feel sick they should stay home. He is fond of pointing to his government’s policy that prohibits employers from terminating employees who are absent for reasons to do with the pandemic. He also likes to refer to the federal program that can provide paid leave, but he doesn’t mention that public health experts and advocates alike acknowledge that is not adequate.
We know that neighbourhoods where these workers live have been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic. But in many cases, if they don’t go to work, they don’t get paid. And they cannot afford to not get paid, so they work even when they should be staying at home.
Public health experts including epidemiologists agree this is a major factor behind COVID-19’s continuing spread. And yet the Ford government will not budge.
This is a prime example of an increasingly troubling reality. Ford, who is the face of the government, talks an increasingly urgent and desperate game, but his government’s actions say something else.
The government is continuing to seek a balance between fully cracking down on the pandemic and preserving what little economic redemption is left at this point. It is now clear that balance does not exist.
Here is one thing we know for sure. At the outset of the pandemic, a hard lockdown — which has become known as a circuit-breaker — succeeded in flattening the curve, which has become a terrifying spike at this point in the second wave. While it is understandable that the government is so reluctant to shut down the economy entirely, there is nothing to suggest more half-measures will help. Which means we could be back here in two weeks or a month contemplating a circuit-breaker and why we didn’t do it sooner. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)