Provincial Update: Communities are holding a government to account, and it’s working

Submitted by Joel Harden, MPP for Ottawa Centre

Premier Ford is a danger to Ontario, and we must organize for better.

Everything going wrong is apparently someone else’s fault. I’ve never seen such a display of finger-pointing in my entire life. 

Schools are safe, and then they’re not. Why? The data changed, says the education minister, the modelling of the virus didn’t account for community spread impacting schools. 

They designated a Kanata postal code (K2V) for priority access for vaccines, despite it being 11th on the list for COVID-19 incidence rates in Ottawa. Why? Because public health evidence says so, says the health minister (even though the science advisory table did not select “hot spot” postal codes, and Ottawa Public Health says it’s not on its priority neighbourhoods list).

Having trouble booking your vaccine appointment via Ontario’s online portal, or with a participating pharmacy? It’s your fault, says Premier Ford, who insists the system works. 

Time and again, we see the same response: Someone else is to blame. 

The good news is we have fought back, and it has made a difference. In fact, we’ve seen three victories in the last five days (at the time of writing).

On April 16, Ford closed playgrounds and expanded police powers. He ordered checkpoints on the five bridges and two ferry crossings in the Ottawa area. No Ottawa officials or public health officials requested these things, but somehow the premier felt he knew best.

Reaction was swift. Within hours, Ford reversed ground on playgrounds. He then “refocused” police powers and insisted that carding would not be allowed. That’s two big wins for us. 

But Ford still went ahead on April 19 with police checkpoints that delayed thousands of essential workers en route to our hospitals and schools (and other places). By that evening, public outcry had scaled the checkpoints back. A third major win for us.

The previous day, the government signalled an intention to shut down the legislature. Having taken no steps to move most parliamentary debate online, they insisted an adjournment was needed to ensure public safety. The variants were to blame. 

The official opposition was having none of this. We insisted on safe legislative practices, and urgent action to meet the threat of COVID-19’s latest variants. We must close non-essential workplaces, vaccinate essential workers, and offer an effective sick day plan. This is what public health experts have urged, and we stood firm. 

By the time I arrived home the evening of April 22, the premier was signalling that Ontario will get a sick day plan for all workers. If this happens, let us never forget Ford fought this idea all along, and we won it by never giving up. This will be our fourth major win, and it will save lives. 

My friends, the days to come will bring adversity and needless death. It should have never come to this, and that is a tragedy of epic proportions. But we also saw the best of Ontario we saw communities hold a government to account, and refuse to back down. 

So, let’s never forget to demand more from politics, and that fighting back makes a difference. Keep firing off those messages and calls, keep organizing safely with your neighbours and let’s make change happen.

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