So, we are languishing on the vaccination rollout and medical doctors who are working in intensive care units filled with COVID carriers are not even allowed to get the second vaccine, which has greater protection for variant mutations. What is wrong with that picture?
By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on April 26, 2021.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s tears failed to dampen the unprecedented spike in his unpopularity.
His mea culpa, offered while in isolation at his late mother’s home in Etobicoke, was designed to let people know that their pain was his pain. But nobody was listening.
The government’s decision to announce draconian lockdown measures the previous weekend was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Within two days, decisions to close children’s playgrounds and unleash unprecedented police powers on an already suffering populace were hastily reversed.
Ford says he went too far, but that is not the issue. He went to the wrong places.
During COVID, if we have learned one thing, it is that the outdoors is our friend. So why prevent children from enjoying playgrounds and shut down the sports of golf, tennis, baseball, soccer, and the like?
Surely if there is one thing that should be encouraged in a pandemic that is well into its second year is the need to get outdoor exercise through several avenues. The closure of all outdoor athletic venues is absurd, and the notion that you cannot even sit on a picnic table in a park is illogical.
What is not enough is the decision to ignore a plan for asymptomatic testing in vulnerable workplaces like grocery stores, food factory floors and shipping areas.
What is not enough is the decision to deny the most vulnerable workers paid sick leave.
Is it any surprise that without sick leave, and with no random workplace testing that silent and not-so-silent carriers are spreading the virus?
What is also not enough is the way that multiple governments have refused to prioritize hot spots for treatment.
In a Confederation, the vaccines are distributed on a per capita basis, but when one city has more than 1,500 cases per day, and a province might have less than 10, why is that per capital system inviolate?
We literally have dozens of public health experts micromanaging in their own municipalities, but we do not have a national approach for tackling this virus.
Provincial governments just say, give us more money to solve the problem, but they are not willing to play ball with a national “hotspot” strategy.
So, we are languishing on the vaccination rollout and medical doctors who are working in intensive care units filled with COVID carriers are not even allowed to get the second vaccine, which has greater protection for variant mutations.
What is wrong with that picture?
If we have learned anything during this pandemic is that the old ways are not always the best ways, and it makes sense to have a national rollout of a vaccine strategy.
It also makes sense to prioritize workplaces and school sites for onsite, antigen testing to stem the spread of the virus.
Shutting down playgrounds and treating people like criminals is no way to get the population on side.
Ontario’s COVID meltdown overshadowed a national budget rollout that should have put smiles on everyone’s faces.
The promised childcare investment, while lauded by every parent, will be a tough sell in provinces that do not want federal incursion in their field of responsibility.
Better to have $1,600 a month daycare in Toronto than embrace a national plan that makes childcare affordable and accessible wherever you live.
During the pandemic, women are the majority of those who have vacated the workforce and, in some instances, continued working while they home-schooled their children.
The national childcare investment should be applauded by all parties, but as usual, the Conservatives had nothing but complaints to offer.
Right-wing commentators grudgingly argued it might be a good idea but needs further study.
A national strategy for childcare has been studied almost as long as the legalization of marijuana, with the first report on the matter dating back to 1970.
Equality First: the Royal Commission on the Status of Women recommended 51 years ago that there should be a sliding scale of payment for childcare based on need. Chair Florence Bird would turn over in her grave if she heard that people were still asking for more studies on childcare.
The federal budget charts a path forward for other provinces to follow the lead of Quebec with a truly affordable system of childcare.
The economic burden of the pandemic has disproportionately fallen on women. Kudos to Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s first woman finance minister for investing real money into a national plan fifty-one years after it was first proposed.
Hopefully this plan will actually come to fruition.
Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.