I really enjoy watching sports. I love taking in Leaf or Blue Jays games as often as I can. Spending so much time in Toronto, people often assume that I take in a good number. Well, I wish that were true. Quite simply, it is just hard to plan ahead so far because invariably something always comes up so I end up working most evenings too. But, that’s what I signed up for.
I love hockey to be sure, but baseball has some unique traits that really appeal to me. For one thing, I love the slower pace of baseball because really lends itself to story telling, not only between innings but, between batters and plays. Readers of this column know I do love a good story.
When you watch baseball, the crowd of course cheers when a player crosses the plate to score a run. But when someone hits a homer, that’s when the crowd goes nuts. And when there is a grand slam… well, it brings the house down. The point is that ball fans want to see a player make it all the way. They want their hometown heroes consistently swinging for the bleachers. They want to see their guy going all the way. Jay fans loved their homerun kings such as #25 Carlos Delgado, #10 Edwin Encaranación and, of course, #19 José Bautista.
Recently in an NDP caucus meeting, we were discussing the government’s approach to rein in the ongoing pandemic, especially given the added challenges presented by the powerful delta variant. I echo the views expressed by many public health and medical officials that the Ford government has been choking up too much on the bat in their efforts to thwart COVID-19. Despite months of pressure and pushing the government, it seems that they just don’t want to make strides using aggressive squeeze-play tactics which would bring the pandemic to its knees.
If I were to assign jersey numbers and Doug Ford was joining the team, I can tell you for sure that he would not get #25, #10 or #19. I say this because it seems since day one, Doug Ford has not demonstrated a true commitment to hitting a home run, or even winning for that matter, but rather has chosen to implement a game plan full of half measures. Whether Ford and his backroom buddies know it or not, as a result of his half measures, the COVID-19 virus is mounting for a fourth wave assault on Ontarians. But unlike baseball, this is not a game. It’s real life…and death.
Ontarians are especially concerned with the Ford government’s approach to preparing for our students to resume their education. Back in June, Andrea Horwath and the NDP were trying to get the message across to Ford that the previous school year had been a debacle for our students and teachers as they had to muddle their way through lockdowns, online learning and school closures. Ontario students missed more school days than any other province. Educators, parents, public health officials, the NDP and others have worked hard throughout the pandemic to encourage the government to reconsider and improve decisions. Beginning in June, the Ford government was called upon to formulate well developed and fully funded plans to ensure our students have a better school year this fall. But Ford chose to ignore the signs, choking up on the bat and trying to just bunt despite the fact it is late in the game and Ontarians need a homerun. He chose to leave decisions to be made late in the summer, thus cutting off input from the public and stakeholders. His swings are only coming half way around.
For example, the Ontario Nurses Association strongly urged Ford to take immediate action and fully fund improved ventilation system installations in every school and classroom. Parents, students, teachers and education workers need and deserve an assurance that their classroom is safe. With so many thousands of lives at stake, we can’t just use guesswork and cross our fingers to solve the air safety problem. Even now, at this late date, the NDP is still calling on Doug Ford to test the air quality of each classroom before schools reopen and to post those results online. If a classroom isn’t ventilated well enough, we shouldn’t be putting kids in it. And putting in small portable HEPA air filters is not the real answer. Do a job right – the first time.
NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles suggested that at the very least Ontario could follow in the footsteps of New York City where they have decided to carry out regular inspections of classroom air quality and also supply school staff with devices to test air quality in between inspections. The reports will be posted online. The Ford government’s schools ventilation announcement did not include any air quality testing or public reporting of the results for each classroom, and there are no minimum standards in Ontario’s school re-opening plan.
Ford continues to add fuel to the fire by following through on cutting $800 million from Ontario schools this year. His school reopening plan also does not include reduced class sizes, or mental health supports for students, or paid sick days and family care days for staff and parents.
Ontarians have had enough disruption, turmoil, loss and even death in the last two years. They are fed up with Doug Ford’s long list of half swings which have now led us directly on a path to a fourth wave. The NDP is joining with many thousands of Ontarians who say that a vaccine certificate program is needed. Such a program would cover all non-essential activities — like gyms, bars and personal services. It would take the guess work out of the equation.
Our small business community is tired and worn down to their socks. They are on pins and needles, having to watch from the dugout for so long during the lockdowns. They have taken it on the chin the whole time with little, delayed or even no support. The majority of Ontarians who have done the right thing and got their shot deserve to dine, shop and play without fear. The business community needs Ford to stop implementing his half measures and show some leadership to create and enforce a fair, safe and effective passport system. The onus should not fall upon the business community and their customers to figure out their own systems. We need a system that is consistent from business to business and community to community. Anything less will lead to chaos and abject failure.
Another egregious example of Ford’s half-measures concerns mandatory vaccination of health care workers and educators. Teachers, educational staff, PSWs, nurses and so on work with some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. Our young children are not even able to receive the vaccine until they are 12 years old. Some health care and PSWs are working with the elderly, frail and those who have compromised immune systems as well as some who actually may be infected. The workers, their families, students and patients all deserve to be as protected as possible to prevent the spread of the virus. Initially, Ford adamantly refused to even consider implementing mandatory vaccination for such workers. However, after facing immense backlash from many sides, Ford did agree to a very watered down half-measure of vaccination policy. He agreed that such workers have to be vaccinated….or… they can refuse and be subjected to frequent testing and required to take an online tutorial or some form of seminar on why vaccination is the best way to protect everyone. But in the end, Ford’s mandatory vaccination is, again, only a watered down, half measure – and a dangerous one at that.
Doug Ford’s half measures show he’s catering to anti-vaccine sentiments within his party and supporters. He is more worried about losing their support than he is about the health and welfare of average Ontarians. He still doesn’t want to spend on COVID-fighting measures. Even Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer says that Ford withheld more than $10 billion last year that was earmarked for pandemic fighting.
It’ late in the game. Ontarians are weary, fed up and fearful for the future of their family, friends and loved ones. People know that they government leader who is going to give a full wheelhouse swing to bring it home and shut out lockdowns for good.
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