News from the Park – Trivia Time

Okay folks, trivia time.  Can you name the longest running daytime gameshow on network television?  I’ll give you a hint by asking, “Where were you in 72?”  That was the year of the first episode.  I was just a babe in arms back then…. What do you mean, “Ya, right?!’  Okay maybe I was a lad.  Anyway, if you guessed The Price Is Right show, you’re a winner.  But no need to ‘come on down’.

I ask this trivia question because I was thinking, you know who would be a fabulous contestant on the show?  Doug Ford.  Why?  Well, if you have ever been a fan of the show you will know how entertaining it is to watch contestants franticly trying to come up with the correct answer/price, but who are totally oblivious of cheers and suggestions from the audience, some of whom undoubtedly knew the answer.  When I was a kid I’d watch the contestants and think it was so funny.

That was a game show way back then.  Now we are facing questions in the real world of the COVID-19 pandemic.  It’s painful to watch Ford and his ministers struggling to make the right decisions but continually ignoring the advice from the very professionals who are paid to provide the advice and support that our government needs to keep us all safe.

Without exception, all of us want to see all children safely back in school full time.  Clearly that is what is best for them.  But to open our schools without first ensuring they are safe is just plain irresponsible.  The other day when Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that our children are heading back to class, he didn’t explain how the government made its decisions about reopening schools, and he sure didn’t announce the kind of safety measures parents, staff, experts have all been calling for.  The NDP says that we should be capping classes at a maximum of 15, providing a comprehensive in-school testing program with clear targets and funding, working now to improve ventilation, and provide paid sick and family-care days so that all parents can afford to keep potentially-sick little ones at home.

Right now test results are proving that more contagious variants of covid-19 are spreading in Ontario.  At least one COVID-19 variant of concern has been detected with the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, a clear indication the variants are moving northward.  It is clear that more proactive action needs to be taken to keep students safe, prevent more missed school days, and save parents, students, teachers and education workers from having to scramble to adjust to yet another change of plans.

We have already learned that juggling kids and working from home was exhausting for parents, learning online was a struggle for students and teachers, and we simply can’t afford to shutter classrooms again.  No one wants to be sent home and sent scrambling to make online learning and work from home work for a third time, without warning, and if we want to keep students in school, full time, we need to do more to protect the re-opening.  It’s not good enough for the government to cross its fingers and hope for the best.  We need to do it right – the first time.

Doug Ford’s recent move to end the State of Emergency and re-open the province within two weeks without providing any new public health protections is sending a dangerous message that it’s time to go back to business as usual.

“People deserve hope that this time, when we open, we’re opening for good,” said Horwath.  “We’ve been stuck in a cycle of one step forward and two steps back.  We’re paying the price because Doug Ford keeps making the same mistakes again and again.

Last March Break Ford urged everyone to travel.  On Mother’s Day he himself held a family gathering.  At Christmas he delayed the lockdown so people could shop and get together for the holidays.  By ending the State of Emergency now and announcing that it’s time to start re-opening — without investing in new protections — he’s repeating the same mistake again, sending a message that it’s time to let up, and dooming us to repeat the cycle of sickness and shut-downs.

We need to get things right this time.  Ontario’s re-opening should be slow, and come with new protections like paid sick days, in-workplace COVID-19 testing, in-school testing, and more capacity to contact trace.

Also a part of Ford’s mixed messaging is the news that the residential eviction ban is being lifted.  The government will allow all evictions to be enforced again within days.  Families all over the province have lost their income, their job, or their business through no fault of their own as a result of the pandemic.  They are still in the thick of this pandemic, and it’s not safe to force people to find shelter, apartment hunt, crash with friends or family, or survive on the street while the virus is still running rampant.  It’s putting people at risk of catching and spreading COVID-19.  Yet, Ford is going ahead with firing the starting gun on evictions.

The eviction ban was full of loopholes — but Doug Ford should be fixing it, not scrapping it.  For those who have lost income due to the pandemic, a rent subsidy and legislated eviction ban are absolutely as necessary as ever.

Just like the flailing contestants on the Price Is Right show, Ontarians will continue to pay the price for his refusal to listen to professional advice, choosing to keep making the same mistakes.  He didn’t want to invest in long-term care, so the second wave claimed more lives than the first.  He didn’t invest in more testing, tracing and public health protections, so businesses have opened only to be forced to shut down again.  He didn’t invest in safer schools, so they reopened only to have to close again.  He keeps refusing to give people paid sick days, only for experts to reveal again and again that workplaces are driving the spread.

Doug Ford needs to wake up and realize he is not a contestant on the Price is Right.  He needs to listen to the experts behind him telling him to put public health before money.  He must stop guessing wrongly and repeating the same mistakes so we can stop the cycle of sickness and lockdowns.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters.

Mike Mantha