Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday October 29, 2020
Hey politicians, if you’re not going to walk the walk, just shut up
Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, Health Minister Patty Hajdu and assistant to Ontario’s education minister Sam Oosterhoff have at least one thing in common. And it is not their politics.
All three have been observed doing things in clear contravention of pandemic public safety guidelines. Scheer flew his family across the country so his kids could attend the preferred school when such travel was prohibited for regular citizens. Hajdu was photographed at Pearson International by an Alberta government supporter as she laughed and gestured — sans mask. And Niagara MPP Oosterhoff posed maskless and in close confines with dozens of relatives attending a celebration at a banquet facility.
Of thee three, Oosterhoff’s sin seems most brazen, because having posed with his family members for the photo, he or someone else at the gathering then posted it on social media. Doing so caused a firestorm and the post was deleted, but the damage was done by then.
It turns out the family was asked by the facility’s management to adhere to masking and distancing rules, but they did not comply. Since there’s no way that many people could be from the same social bubble, it’s a particularly egregious and arrogant sin.
By contrast, the photo of Hajdu showed her sitting alone smiling and unmasked. She later said she was eating and therefore allowed to be maskless, but even if that is true, she should have known better. Ministers, in particular the federal minister of health, should hold themselves to a higher standard.
The optics in Oosterhoff’s case are equally bad. The legislative assistant to Education Minister Steven Lecce had to have known ignoring his own government’s public health rules was foolish and high risk. And while Hajdu was exposed by a conservative operative, Oosterhoff basically blew the whistle on himself.
It’s also worth noting that this isn’t his first folly. This is the same MPP who, speaking at a rally, said “We pledge to make abortion unthinkable.” And in the spring of last year, his office staff called the police to report seniors who were holding a “read in” to protest library cuts. How many strikes does Oosterhoff get?
Apparently, according to Premier Doug Ford, lots. For the third day in a row, Ford has defended the MPP, promising “Sam will do better.”
The perceived double standard is riling Ontarians of all political stripes. When regular folk convene backyard parties or gather in parks or on beaches, they are called “yahoos” by the premier. He has urged law enforcement authorities to come down hard on the “knuckleheads,” but when it comes to his own MPP blatantly disregarding public safety, Ford is all warm and cuddly.
The hypocrisy rankles, especially at a time when Ontarians are feeling at the end of their rope about the pandemic and resulting restrictions on their personal freedoms. It’s hard enough to do the right thing for the right reasons, but when authority figures break the very same rules, even the most altruistic citizen can be forgiven for chafing at the bit.
Politicians at all levels should cut this out, and post it to their office bulletin boards, or the socially distant electronic equivalent. We are in the second wave, and it is worse at this point than the first wave. We don’t know where we will be next month or even next year. We are being told to make those sacrifices in the name of keeping ourselves and others healthy. And the vast majority of us are doing that.
But do not, under any circumstances, tell us to undergo these hardships and make these sacrifices and avoid them yourselves.
You can talk the talk, but if you’re not going to walk and walk, just shut up. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)