Special Report: COVID-19

Public Health Cuts are a Deadly False Economy

If you don't think you need Public Health, that's because it's working. A political leader or party that doesn't understand this is by definition unqualified to lead the government.

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 04, 2020

Hey, remember last year when Doug Ford cut hundreds of millions of dollars from public health funding across the province and Conservatives were delighted that finally a government was 'respecting the taxpayer'?

They were warned that Ford's cuts to public health and emergency services were narrow and short-sighted and would result in preventable illness, but Conservatives just said that was liberal whining.

And remember last year when Doug Ford rolled back the labour legislation that guaranteed at least two paid sick days and eight unpaid sick days and banned employers from requiring doctors' notes?

They were warned that Ford's cuts to worker protection were narrow and short-sighted and would force people to come into work sick and infect other people, but Conservatives said that was just more liberal whining.

And remember last year when Doug Ford appointed so many party hacks and personal loyalists to patronage appointments in important oversight positions that the ensuing scandal forced his chief of staff to take one for the team and fall on his sword?

They were warned that hollowing out the leadership of the civil service was narrow and short-sighted and would result in less effective public service but Conservatives said stop whining, the Liberals do it too.

And remember way back in 2018 when Doug Ford ran for Premier of Ontario with no experience, no platform and no plan other than to enrich his powerful friends, and Conservatives all fell in line behind him despite their private misgivings?

Ontarians were warned that voting for a populist demagogue would come back to haunt us in due time, but 40.6 percent of voters ignored the warnings and cast ballots for his party anyway.

It can feel defiant, cathartic or even entertaining to vote for an obnoxious grifter to stick it to the incumbents and really rub their noses in it. I get it.

But then a real public health crisis emerges and suddenly you realize that a B-Team of belligerent party hacks and incompetent ideologues is all that stands between you and a deadly pandemic.

If you don't think you need Public Health, that's because it's working. A political leader or party that doesn't understand this is by definition unqualified to lead the government.

How many times to we need to learn the same lesson that cutting corners on public health is a deadly false economy? Why didn't we learn after Mike Harris and the Walkerton scandal? Six people died and over two thousand people became seriously ill.

A hamstrung infectious disease response is only the most obvious way cuts can kill, but it's by no means the only way. After Ford broke his election promise and canceled the Basic Income pilot project, a Hamilton man whose quality of life had stabilized on the pilot spiraled into declining health and died last month.

Indeed, new research out of McMaster University demonstrates that the pilot was working exactly as predicted: improving quality of life, reducing health and social service costs and even increasing labour market participation.

This stuff matters. Cutting essential public health services that prevent people from dying is not a good way to own the libs.

Will Conservatives and their cruel, short-sighted ideology of selfishness ever be held accountable for the predictable suffering and preventable death they cause every time they are in power?

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By StreetAdvisor (registered) | Posted March 08, 2020 at 07:48:58

Ryan, what point are you trying to make? Public Health has been veering out of their lane for years, like funding breakfast programs at select schools. Meanwhile what are they doing about the Coronavirus? Distributing hand sanitizer? Who knows, as they have nothing to say, but wash your hands?

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By Ryan (registered) | Posted March 19, 2020 at 12:33:00 in reply to Comment 130541

IT is hard to tell since I cannot see his facial expressions when he writes this

Probably no point replying to this now, but my facial expression as I wrote that was: I understand how an exponential function works.

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