The bar for great leadership is on the floor
This is an excerpt from Ontario Majority, our brand new newsletter covering Ontario politics.
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The bar for great leadership is on the floor.
A few months ago, no one would have guessed Doug Ford would be boasting a 69% approval rating. Yet, that’s the case today. The pundits love him and even people who opposed him just months ago are growing fond of his leadership. You might even find yourself liking him (gasp!).
But what exactly has he done to deserve all this praise?
Sure, he hasn’t copied the divisive rhetoric of the federal Conservatives or downplayed COVID-19 like Trump. And he hasn’t laid off 20,000 education workers in the middle of a pandemic like Jason Kenney. But is that the bar for great leadership? Are our political expectations so low, and our political memory so short, that all it takes to impress us is a few photo-ops of Ford holding boxes of masks?
When the bar for being a great leader is being better than Trump, you can sure be certain we’ve hit rock-bottom.
Let’s talk about what the Premier has done. Before COVID-19, he announced cuts for public health and long-term care – two of the areas of our healthcare system that are now under strain. He canceled a minimum wage increase for the very workers he now calls “local heroes.” He got rid of paid sick days that could have slowed the spread of the virus.
Surely, if he is such a great leader, then his response to COVID-19 must be great. Wrong. The two golden standards of addressing this pandemic are testing and contact tracing. We’ve been told this by public health experts over and over.
Ontario’s testing program has been in disarray from day one. Last year, when Doug Ford brought funding for Public Health Ontario (PHO) to its lowest levels since 2010, he was warned about the impact it would have on their lab’s capacity to handle large volumes of tests.
The testing regime was so bad, people were waiting up to 13 days to get results back. Even in late April, Ontario still lagged behind the rest of the country in terms of testing. Well into May, testing was falling behind while cases were rising.
Contact tracing, as well, has been a nightmare. As of May 22, Ontario still cannot account for where more than two-thirds of cases originate from on a given day. In British Columbia, where contact tracing was prioritized, new daily cases are now down to single digits.
Instead of owning up and taking responsibility, Ford has tried to pin the blame on public health officers. Apparently, that’s what great leaders do – dodge responsibility! At the end of the day, Ford is spearheading the response and he chose to start re-opening the province at a time when these problems still persisted.
What about long-term care?
Long-term care in Ontario is in a horrific state. Military members that were helping in nursing homes have exposed the horrifying details – cockroach infestations, soiled residents left screaming for hours, and under-staffed facilities where workers are forced to reuse masks.
Ford says the long-term care system was broken well before him. And he’s not wrong.
But if the system was broken, why did Ford and his government do away with full inspections of nursing homes? Why did they cut funding for long-term care? Why were inspectors allegedly instructed to “go easy” on nursing homes and hastily close cases?
The one good thing he’s done was putting a pause on residential evictions. Unfortunately, that’s been overshadowed by legislation his government is pushing through that will make evictions much easier once that ban is lifted.
Doug Ford is a skilled politician. He tells people exactly what they want to hear. Take for instance, when Ford said Canada doesn’t have “systemic racism” like the U.S. People did not like that. So, the next day, he came out and said “of course there is systemic racism.”
The Premier is the same smooth-talking trickster he was just months ago. The only difference is, people are now falling for it. The news media which uncritically takes him at his word only does us a disservice.
The fact that such a low bar has been set for what constitutes leadership and success during this crisis is alarming. It speaks volumes not just of our expectations but also of our increasingly short political memories.
Tell us what you think!
Every week we’ll be including a question for you. We want to hear about your thoughts on the issues we’re discussing. The top responses will then be included in next week’s newsletter.
Do you think Doug Ford has done a good job handling COVID-19?
While you weren’t looking.
The over-looked news of the week.
- Global News reporter, Travis Dhanraj, says he is being black-listed from asking questions during Premier Ford’s pressers. After asking a tough question about nursing homes, Dhanraj has not been allowed to ask questions.
- Ontario spent $2.8 billion to buy gas plants – not only will it be bad for our climate change efforts, say critics, but it will also likely cost ratepayers more!
- The Ontario Progressive Conservatives are handing out special orders (called MZOs) that allow real estate developers to bypass usual public appeals. In one year, they’ve handed out more ‘MZOs’ than all those in the past decade!
On a lighter note!
There’s so much bad news in the world these days, we figured it’d be refreshing to end things off with some good news.
For the first time in the faculty’s history, the University of Toronto School of Medicine has named a black woman as valedictorian. Chika Oriuwa, who was the only black student in her class of 259, graduated with her peers in late May.
This kind of news shouldn’t be special or rare, it should be a normal occurrence. Unfortunately, it’s not. There’s some hope on the way though. The incoming class of 2024 was just revealed and it’s looking a whole lot more diverse!
We wanted to take a little break from the bad news to bring you all something amazing!— Black Medical Students’ Association at U of T (@UofTBMSA) May 31, 2020
We’ve just learned that there have been 24 Black Medical Students admitted to @uoftmedicine for the class of 2024!!🎉
This is the largest group in Canadian history 🙌🏾
Welcome to the family❤️ pic.twitter.com/a51Il4LRFF
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