“So I guess Christmas isn’t happening.”
Yesterday, like most days, I spent lunch at my kitchen table, feeding my newborn and watching the Ontario government’s daily press conference (a luxury of being on maternity leave).
The big news of the day had already leaked: new projections estimating that Ontario’s COVID case count may reach 6,500 new cases per day by mid-December. Other numbers had not yet been released. How many more people do we expect to die by then? How many more people will face the lingering post-COVID health impacts we are just now learning about?
Premier Ford began the press conference with a big smile and a promise of exciting news. Ship components made in Hamilton would proudly bear the “Ontario-made” logo after the signing of a new agreement.
The Premier’s remarks barely mentioned the COVID crisis, with a passing reference at the end about Friday the 13th biker gatherings with a lacklustre message: “guys, get it together.” There was no mention of the 18 people who died yesterday, bringing Ontario’s total COVID death count to 3,300.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Job creation initiatives are important, and we need good news right now. But was this what Ontarians needed to hear from their Premier in that moment?
Not even close.
My family has started to have difficult conversations about Christmas. After what has already felt like a hard year with many sacrifices, the thought that my baby may not get to experience her first Christmas surrounded by family feels particularly cruel. Her great-grandmother, who lives in a retirement home, has still not held her -- and it looks like she won’t be able to over the holidays.
COVID is spreading out of control in Ontario, and health experts are communicating very clearly about what lies ahead if we don’t act decisively and quickly to flatten this second wave. We learned this week that the Ford Government has ignored the advice of our top health experts and lied to Ontarians about what is needed to control the spread. Health experts are now bravely speaking out about the urgent need for a change in direction.
So when I received the text from a family member, “so I guess Christmas isn’t happening,” I was overcome with emotion. Sadness. Frustration. Anger.
People have made many sacrifices this year. Front-line workers have taken on heightened health risks. Surgeries have been delayed or cancelled. Weddings and funerals have taken place over Zoom. Kids have been wearing masks all day long. People have lost jobs. People have lost their lives or their loved ones.
“Guys, get it together” as a message from our Premier -- on the day with our highest case count to date and devastating news dominating the headlines -- was just not good enough.
I want our Premier to be successful right now. That would mean fewer deaths, fewer sick people, fewer lost jobs. Those are outcomes we need. I want to see our leaders delivering the best possible outcomes for people, no matter which party they represent.
But we are a long way away from that vision.
Premier Ford ran on a promise to be “for the people.” This is the moment where his promise is being put to the test. People are on the line. It is literally life and death. And even for the lucky among us who never catch COVID, the impacts from this pandemic on our lives have been profound. Missed holidays and milestones, months of isolation and loneliness -- well, they all come at a cost.
The best thing that Premier Ford can do “for the people” right now, not to mention for our economy, is to get COVID under control.
And it’s not like we don’t know how to do that. We have learned a lot about how to manage COVID over the past several months. We have observed real-time case studies around the world about what works, and what doesn’t. We have phenomenal public health experts. If we are serious about managing COVID, we must listen to them and follow their advice. Period.
For my family, Christmas is a very meaningful day. Every family has special holidays and events. Diwali is happening right now. Hanukkah is near. I am devastated at the thought of my baby missing her first Christmas with family, but am more terrified at the thought of who we may lose for holidays in the years to come.
It’s not enough to be sad, or angry. We must act. We must follow public health advice. Stay home and limit close contact. Wear a mask and keep a 2 meter distance if you must go out. Wash your hands often.
And, get political.
Speak up. Demand better. These are matters of political will. If you’re not happy with the leadership in Ontario, let’s get organized and change it.
Ready to act? Join our next Day of Action on November 21 where we will stand up to Premier Ford and demand better for Ontarians. If you have a phone and 30 minutes, you can be a part of making change in Ontario -- or you can make a $10/month commitment to support Kate’s campaign.