Over the past week we’ve had lots of talk and discussion about the importance of social distancing measures. The whole incident at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto on Saturday was one major flash point, but there have been other incidents that have brought this discussion to the fore. Throughout it all, we’ve been looking at governments to set the example when it comes to following these measures. In response to what happened on Saturday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford spared no mercy to those who were flaunting social distancing measures and putting people’s health at risk, which he was right to do by the way. But today something completely messed up happened at Queen’s Park that caught everyone off guard, stunned and left folks asking some seriously legitimate questions:
Yes folks, that wouldn’t look so abnormal in a pre-Covid time but that video leaps off the screen there. That video shows Doug Ford’s Conservatives, in the dozens, voting on a piece of legislation called Bill 159, the Rebuilding Consumer Confidence Act. If you’re wondering what that bill will do and why it was so vital to be pushed through today, one of the things it will do is make evictions easier. Yep, this happened to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants, in the middle of a global pandemic and the worst financial crisis we’ve seen since the Great Depression.
If that was bad enough, the very image of what we saw there is even worse. What happened to physical distancing measures? What happened to public health? What happened to ensuring that the Ontario Legislature didn’t become one big super spreader of a petri dish? All that seemingly went out the window to stack the deck on a vote to make it easier to throw people out of their homes.
Many people probably don’t know that all the parties at Queen’s Park came to an agreement at the very beginning of this crisis to help the place operate with lesser numbers. As former NDP Whip and current MPP John Vanthof pointed out on Facebook, when he was whip negotiated lots of those agreements, especially on Thursday afternoons when MPPs would typically get out of town for the weekends back in their ridings.
With that agreement the Ford Conservatives, who hold a majority, didn’t need to worry about them losing that vote. Yet despite that fact, according to reports from the legislature, the Ford government had most of their MPP’s waiting in the wings for the vote, ready to flood the chamber when the time came. They didn’t tell any of the Opposition Parties, despite the fact that packing all of those MPPs from across Ontario into that chamber also put their health at risk.
That image was so stark, especially when you consider what happened in Ottawa today where the House of Commons sat in its first hybrid session. Just from doing a fast headcount in that photo, I can feel safe in saying that there were more MPPs crammed into that chamber in Toronto than there were MPs in the House Chamber. And oh yeah, that chamber in Toronto is much smaller.
And again I ask the question: What the Hell for? Why in the Hell pull a bush league, immature stunt like that for a vote that you were going to win anyway, no matter how ghoulish the result if it may be? After you just spent weeks chiding Ontarians to follow the rules and to act right for the sake of those, why in the Hell would you stack that chamber, masks or no masks?
This is so epically dumb on so many levels. Not only does it give a massive middle finger to all Ontarians who have been struggling to do the right thing, it tells all of those who have been ignoring the rules that they were right to do so. Remember those “yahoos” in front on Queen’s Park who have been saying there is no danger and have been licking statues on the lawn? Yeah, cramming those MPPs into their seats, shoulder to shoulder, sends them that message too, something that I doubt they will miss.
It completely undercuts so much of the good work that this Premier has done in this crisis and flushes it down the john. It reeks of what pre-Covid Doug Ford would have done and as a result, looks even worse in this moment. And again, I ask the question: What for? What is it they think they are getting by stacking the room to pass that bill, one that will pass anyway, and put their very credibility with the public at total risk? And at a time when you need to have trust from the Opposition to move things along quickly, why would you put that relationship at risk. As Vanthof put it, this incident makes him “question their judgement and true willingness to work together.” That seems like a very reasonable think to question after that.
In the end I have to keep asking myself “Why?” because I just don’t see it. I don’t see what they get from pulling this dangerous stunt. I really don’t, it makes no sense at all and looks like a dumb mistake to make if that’s what it was. And in the meantime, every time Doug Ford wants to get in front of the microphones to tell everyone else how they should follow public health rules, he will now get legitimately asked “But why did you stack the chamber for that vote?” This reeks of the “One rule for thee, another for me” kind of thinking that lead to Ford’s three other violations of Covid-19 rules. Instead this time, he dragged his whole caucus into it, in plain view of the live cameras and the press gallery.
After the day that Ontarians went through yesterday, you’d think that maybe Premier Ford would tread a bit more lightly today yet with this move, he’s slammed his foot on the gas. I look forward to hearing the explanations for this crap because I’m sure they will be spectacular. For all the growth that Doug Ford has shown over the past two months, this stunt is a serious shrinking on the man. Today he went back on his own word, he needlessly exposed his colleagues to serious risk during a state of emergency and undercut his own ability to lead Ontarians in these dangerous times. And all for what? We have no clue & honestly, I am left to wonder if even he knows why. I always say that “we should never chalk up to great strategy what can more easily be explained by stupidity.” This falls clearly in that category because there is no sign of strategy here, but many of the latter. Premier Ford, you owe us an explanation and it better be good.