Ford's attacks on worker protections, public health, housing affordability and disaster preparedness left Ontario less equipped to respond to a public health emergency like COVID-19.
By Michael Nabert
Published March 18, 2020
In light of this week's declaration of emergency in Ontario, let us not forget that Premier Doug Ford's policies until now have been a disaster for Ontario.
During the election, he promised that not one public employee will lose their job. It was a lie. The sick day policy he introduced right after forming government was not only cruel to workers, but also dangerous to public health, as he was warned at the time.
The COVID-19 novel coronavirus is bad. Doug Ford made it worse. In response to the outbreak, he was forced to introduce new legislation to reverse his own cuts and reinstate some job protections he had taken away from workers needing sick days.
He also cut public health services by hundreds of millions of dollars in a sustained assault on health care (and a whole lot more).
Ford wants to end effective action on climate change so badly that he was willing to spend $231 million in tax dollars to default on contracts with clean energy providers.
That loss is dwarfed by the $2-4 billion it cost Ontario to abandon its Cap and Trade program. Companies had already paid the province for carbon allowances that were now rendered worthless and will litigate to get their money back. And that's on top of billions a year in lost revenue the program represented.
Ford's attacks on clean energy and carbon pricing hurt Ontario, costing billions, destroying thousands of jobs, and hurting investor confidence in Ontario. Don't take my word for it, here's Forbes Magazine telling it like it is.
Ford's first budget cut the province's emergency fire-fighting budget by almost 70 percent. Wildfires are a problem. Doug Ford made it worse.
Climate change also means more extreme flooding. Flooding costs increasing due to climate change are Canada’s biggest extreme weather challenge. Ford responded by massively cutting the budget for dealing with floods. Once again, Doug Ford sees a problem, and races to make it worse. Does anyone else see a pattern here?
Housing costs in Ontario have been a huge problem. Doug Ford made it worse, opening the door to massive rent increases that were already hitting people hard before the COVID-19 emergency emerged.
When the Mike Harris government's policies led to seven deaths and 2,300 illnesses in Walkerton's water crisis, citizens went to the courts to hold the government to account. Ford changed the law so that when his policies mean more preventable deaths, citizens won't be able to seek justice in the courts.
It is no longer possible for Ontario citizens to sue the government for negligence or malfeasance. Even when it costs lives.
But this crisis in leadership is not just a Conservative problem, though the Conservatives certainly make it worse. Both Conservative and Liberal governments alike have been steadily undermining our social safety net. Every single time over the past 30-40 years when a politician from either party has promised they were going to find "efficiencies" in your health care, what they were doing was destroying capacity.
Now we will pay the price for every single vote cast for those politicians, because the excess capacity the health care system needs to deal with a crisis no longer exists. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of five hospital beds per thousand citizens, and Canada, the tenth wealthiest country in the world, has only half of that.
Our health care system has been in crisis for a long time. This public health emergency is merely revealing how fragile the system already is.
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