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Nov. 26, 2020 | Thursday
Editorials and Opinions
Opinion: Ford dropped the ball on COVID. The time to act is now
File photo/MPP Wayne Gates

Wayne Gates
Special to The Lake Report

There can be no doubt that any elected official ran for office expecting to deal with COVID-19.

Nonetheless, officials are elected to rise to moments that meet them during their tenures no matter how difficult they may be.

Representing Niagara-on-the-Lake, I understand the pressure that Premier Doug Ford is under to juggle the many deeply affected areas of our constituencies with the need to halt the spread of COVID-19, which once again threatens to overwhelm our health care system and so drastically attack our seniors.

The decisions required are not easy ones when you are balancing policies that save lives with policies that save livelihoods. However, this is the job we ran for and this is the pitch we’ve been thrown.

While I stand with those in our province trying to defeat this deadly virus, there comes a time when as a member of the opposition I must raise my voice against what I see to be critical policy failures. We can see the devastating consequences of inaction before our eyes.

Provincial modelling released in October said by the end of November we could see 1,200 cases a day. Last Thursday we saw nearly 1,600, only 12 days into the month. This projection was revised to indicate that we could see as many as 6,500 cases a day by December.

I firmly believe the numbers show that Ontario has not unleashed its full potential to stop this virus. As the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario showed, nearly 97 per cent of the dollars spent to fight COVID-19 have been federal dollars.

To make matters worse, the premier has failed to deploy almost $7 billion earmarked for provincial efforts. It sits there while the virus grows at an exponential rate.

Even worse in the new provincial budget, despite 670 school outbreaks in Ontario, there is no funding for smaller class sizes. There are no measures to expand the work of public health, whose staff are working around the clock every day.

There are no measures to attract more personal dupport workers for our long-term care homes, which have proven to be tinderboxes of this virus. As we all know, COVID-19 is particularly deadly to our parents and grandparents in care homes.

Perhaps most surprising of all given his background as a small business owner, Ford would rather let businesses struggle on their own, instead of giving them the financial support they need to keep tighter public health measures in place.

Make no mistake – this is a period of time that the history books will write about. There is no blueprint for how to do this properly and it is a tough job.

However, I believe future generations will look to this moment for brave leadership. The premier still has time to change course and act decisively to deploy the resources available to him to protect businesses, workers, health care staff and our seniors.

Wayne Gates is the New Democrat MPP for Niagara Falls, which includes NOTL.