News from the Park

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Michael Mantha MPP - Queens Park

Stress is not something that we generally think of in a positive light.  Stress, however, can actually have positive effect on our lives.  For example, stress can be a useful motivator in getting ourselves to take action, learn and prepare for events in our lives.  Also we know athletes perform better with a controlled amount of stress.  Clearly though, high, and prolonged stress is not good — we all know that.  Like anything in life, moderation is the key.

Most of us can handle stress; even high stress when necessary.  Sometimes we have to even handle somewhat prolonged stress such as when a loved one is sick or injured.  In general, those stresses we find manageable in that we are able to generate reasonable timelines and outcomes that are relatively foreseeable.  Recently I heard part of a remarkably interesting CBC radio podcast in which the topic was the difference between our normal stresses in our lifetime and stresses which we are experiencing now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The psychologist guest pointed out that the stresses caused by the pandemic are worse not only because of the prolonged nature of pandemic but the stresses are also magnified by the fact that everything associated with the pandemic is so unpredictable, unstable, and out of our personal control.  The psychologist has hit the nail bang on.

As I see it, experiencing this pandemic is kind of like riding a speeding rollercoaster.  The stress of riding the standard rollercoaster is manageable because we can see the hills, valleys and turns up ahead.  We can brace ourselves for them.  But this pandemic rollercoaster ride we are on has unanticipated highs and lows as well as twists, turns and loop de loops that we can’t see coming at us until we are suddenly upon them.  We don’t even know how long the ride will be!

If we can understand beforehand that the pandemic rollercoaster ride is “double black diamond stressor,” we can formulate expectations and strategies to helps us navigate the route with greater confidence.  In real life, this is where our government leaders can help.  When the pandemic hit, the government needed to develop a plan that would help us to manage taking the twists and turns as they come and instill a sense of confidence.  Instead, what Ontarians are being subjected to is a government that is short sighted, focusing too much on economic prosperity rather than physical and mental health.

As a result not listening to public health experts and poor planning, Doug Ford marched us right into this lockdown with eyes wide open.  Experts made it clear every step of the way: he was re-opening too quickly, taking away public health protections too soon, and implementing half-measures that would not stop the spread.  This brutal lockdown today is of his making.

Go back a year ago when it was decided for the protection of our children that schools needed to be closed until we could come up with a plan that would ensure their safe return to classes.  Premier Ford and Education Minister Lecce promised that no expense would be spared to make our schools safe.

The NDP proposed over and over again to spend money to protect our students by capping class sizes, vaccinating frontline workers, providing sick days, on-site testing, in-workplace vaccine clinics and more.  But Mr. Ford would not spend money he has from the federal government to help protect Ontarians from the virus.

And then it happened across the province.  Students and teachers became infected and classes or entire schools had to be closed.  The schools had to shut down early at Christmas and have a delayed start in the New Year.  People said, “So much for a safe school plan.”

Now Ontario finds itself mired in a devastating third wave that in every way pales the first and second.  Mr. Ford and Mr. Lecce earnestly promised Ontarians that our children are safe and secure in our schools.  Every assurance was made that the schools would close for a delayed spring break and then reopen the following week.

  • Lecce: April 11: “Ontario has one of the lowest case rates for young people under 19 years old in Canada…. since September, 99.2 per cent of students and 98.7 per cent of staff never reported an active case.”
  • Ford: April 7: “These schools are safe.”
  • Ford: April 6: “Schools are safe. Folks, across the province, we’re looking at 98.5 per cent, almost 99 per cent of the schools are currently open.”
  • Lecce: April 6: “Schools are safe.  The data speaks for itself.”
  • Lecce: April 1: “But we are proud on this side of the House.  We’re proud of our students and the system of education that has worked so well to keep COVID out of our schools.”

Then, after all of these resounding assurances, over a single weekend there was a complete flip-flop and the premier and minister announced a province wide stay home order and that schools were immediately closed until further notice.  Daycares and after school care programs would be closed.  Suddenly, after being assured that things were fine, parents are left to scramble for childcare.  Even worse, Doug Ford and his cabinet knew on Friday that they would be announcing the school closure Monday.

So much for the government instilling a sense of confidence in peoples’ minds.

My office receives hundreds of calls and emails from frustrated and stressed out constituents who just don’t know what to believe anymore.  The eligibility and actual access to receive the vaccine depends upon the age of people in different regions and whether it is urban or rural it seems.  There seems to be no consistency but an ample supply of confusion and frustration.

The people of Ontario are intelligent, strong and resilient.  They have the fortitude to handle any rollercoaster ride that is thrown at them as long as they have clear, consistent and confident leadership.  That is something that seems to be lacking these days in Queen’s Park.  Ontarians deserve better.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters.  You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha, MPP/député Algoma-Manitoulin

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