Editorials - Dec. 3, 2020
The system needs help
Just six short months ago, the Ontario government was promising to hold another inquiry into long-term care in the province after the initial wave of the coronavirus decimated the ability of many homes to care for seniors. Staff was overwhelmed, residents were dying and the military was called in for back-up.
While an inquiry seemed like a tool to placate angry families, at least Premier Doug Ford professed to care about the quality of life for seniors and others in long-term care. Now with Bill 218 - Supporting Ontario’s Recovery, which was passed last month, advocates are voicing their concerns. The bill was designed to provide liability protection to various businesses, nonprofits and workers against COVID-19 exposure-related lawsuits.
While the government has assured the public that the bill will not protect “bad” actors who willfully or through “gross negligence” endanger others, critics say that the move will make it almost impossible to hold the long-term care homes accountable. Family members will have to find very deep pockets to not only prove negligence, but “gross negligence”. Some private care homes put profits ahead of the residents’ needs and this bill provides a large loophole for them to get away with it. – DS
Time to own up
If there has ever been a year to give ourselves a break it is 2020. We are all in uncharted waters – struggling mentally, emotionally and economically, and that is in addition to those suffering physically after contracting COVID-19 or those who lost their lives. People are making mistakes and doing whatever it takes to get through the day. That is why it was so baffling to hear Ontario Deputy-Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott be so defiant in the face of Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s report on the government’s response to the pandemic.
The report, released last week, found that wider spread of COVID-19 in the province was caused by the government by way of delays, mismanagement of positive cases and structural and communication issues. During a year in which most of us have given elected officials a pass for conflicting information and changing their minds, due to the sheer unprecedented nature of the pandemic, the Ford government has failed to accept responsibility for its apparent failings. Elliott said in an interview that there were “factual inaccuracies” in Lysyk’s report. “Don’t start pretending you’re a doctor or a health professional, because I can tell you, you aren’t,” Ford, who, like Lysyk, is neither a doctor nor a health professional, pointedly said at a recent news briefing.
The Auditor General has stood by her work and the facts contained within, saying the report was vetted by Ontario Health, Ontario Public Health, the Ontario Ministry of Health and others.
After a tumultuous first 18 months in office, Ford’s government enjoyed a renaissance during the pandemic, during which Ford shed comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump and his bungling of the pandemic south of the border. Ford listened to experts, helped Ontarians and showed he really cared about the job. This defiance and inability to take responsibility for mistakes may provide an unwanted flashback to pre-pandemic Ford who rubbed many the wrong way. – SL
A destructive loophole
While Doug Ford and the provincial government have made some good strides in terms of fighting COVID-19, they’ve apparently failed the one group that Ford has always wanted to support: business owners.
With the move of closing non-essential stores in COVID-19 hotspots, Ford has created a loophole and a situation from which those businesses may not recover. The loophole allows big box stores, which can stay open to sell essential items, to sell non-essential items as well, taking sales from small businesses, failing them while big box stores flourish.
For Ford’s part, he says there is support for these companies with grants and emergency funding, however that hasn’t stopped some restaurants and businesses from closing their doors permanently.
Just a province away, however, the Manitoba government is taking a different approach and banning the sale of non-essential items, resulting in non-essential stores closing and big box stores closing off sections of their stores, making for a more even playing field. While neither system is perfect, it’s clear that the Manitoba government is at least making sure that big box stores, by virtue of carrying a little bit of everything, aren’t getting a foothold in or dominating the market thanks to a loophole.
Recovery is going to require a strong economy and Ford needs to find a better way to make sure that stores, whether they’re in downtown Toronto or on Brussels or Blyth’s main streets, come out of the pandemic as good, if not better, than they were before. – JDS