As the month of August ends and an end of the summer is just around the corner, it’s hard to find any positives out there. Really it feels like the fall of our discontent is on our doorstep and it’s hard to see any good coming from what’s ahead. This weekend I had to walk away from my social media because it was just too much. As someone who loves politics and believes in its ability to do good, I saw a steady stream of the things I hate about politics the most coming across my feed, relentlessly, with nothing good to counterbalance it.
If these were normal times, I might be able to stomach it. If things were better in our society, I could probably handle it as a slip into the worst of our human nature. We’re not perfect beings by any stretch, so in normal times I could likely chalk it up to a bit of that and deal with it. But as we know, these are not normal times. These are quite the opposite at this point, between COVID-19 around the World, watching our American neighbours tear themselves apart with two months still to come before their election, and protests taking place here at home. We’ve got lots of problems that deserve serious answers, instead we’re seeing politicians in the US and here at home trying to stoke the fires of these divisions to play partisan advantage.
Over the weekend, I heard precious few voices trying to speak to actually dealing with these problems we face. They were drowned out by people on either side throwing partisan crap at each other, completely overlooking and downplaying the serious issues they claim to care about. For me, it was all too much, not just because of the ugliness of it all but because while things are bad right now, it still stands to get much worse before this gets any better. Don’t believe me? Well check some of these stories out:
We haven’t seen the worst of this pandemic, yet folks and those stories speak specifically to that reality. First the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation is pointing out again that we have yet to see the true impact of COVID on the housing market in this country, but that it will eventually come and be bad. The fact is that wage support programs have helped to keep people in their homes to some degree, but eventually that will change. Also last week CMHC President and CEO Evan Siddall put out this ominous tweet that speaks to this same concern:
21% of mortgages in Alberta have been deferred. 15% in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador are in that position too. Those are far above normal levels and while banks and the government have helped in this regard, payments deferred are not payments forgiven. Eventually those people will need to pay them and eventually the banks will come to collect. That will likely lead to a rush of mortgage foreclosures and personal bankruptcies, complete with all of the consequences that come with that. So while government programs have stalled that from happening, they haven’t stopped it outright.
The next story of importance I noted comes around another government program that was put into place to help fight COVID; the commercial rent assistance program. As the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported today, less that 33% of the funds projected to be spent on this program have been. Despite the struggles that so many businesses have faced, less than a third of the funds have actually gone out the door to help these businesses. Why is that? Well this story from Toronto today is a good example of the problem:
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After 9 years of serving our customers, it is with a VERY HEAVY HEART that we have to announce the closing of The Office Pub effective Monday, August 31st. We have had some great times and some challenges, unfortunately we couldn’t overcome the challenges – an unfair lease expectation from our greedy landlord. As a tenant for 9 years, we never ever failed to pay the due diligences on time. But during these difficult times, he has ignored our pleads to reduce rent, renegotiate a new lease, failed to apply rent subsidy from the government. This week he has come and given us a legal notice asking to pay $156K from April to August. It has been a pleasure serving, connecting and celebrating with all our customers over the years. We are so grateful to all of you. 🙏🙏🙏. To all the awesome staff who have worked for us over the years and presently thank you for the awesome work guys. We sincerely appreciate all your hard work and commitment. It's been a privilege and a pleasure to serve such an incredible, dedicated and passionate community. Thank you again from all of us at The Office Pub.
We’ve been hearing stories like these for months, of businesses being unable to use this government assistance program because landlords had to apply for it, not the renters. What we’ve seen is that many landlords have simply refused to apply for the program, forcing their tenants to come up with their full rent and leaving them vulnerable. Why would these landlords do this? It’s very hard to explain beyond pure greed, as the owners of that pub above pointed to. But now we’re seeing more and more businesses succumbing to this lack of action by the government to fix this problem in their own program. Again, another serious issue before us while our politicians are mostly missing in action.
But the last story I raise is one that truly bothers me, not only as a parent but the spouse of a teacher. Ontario’s four teachers’ unions were forced to place a complaint to the Ontario Labour Board because of unsafe return to school conditions. In response to that, Premier Doug Ford made blind partisan attacks, trying to claim that teachers are not trying to “work with them”. That is complete BS from Ford, exactly the kind of thing he has done for most of his two years in office. But in this moment, it’s not just disingenuous, but it’s dangerous. Ford is complaining that teachers’ unions “won’t work with him”, yet his government has refused to reach out to or work with the unions. That’s left the unions with no communications, no input and no say in the process. That’s on Ford and his education minister and when he throws out such attacks on teachers’ unions, he seems to basically be saying “I want them to agree with me, shut up and just do as they’re told”.
In normal times maybe Ford can treat unions that way, it’s how he normally rolls. But in this moment, it’s dangerous and does nothing to help a situation that’s already nerve-wracking for parents and teachers. We are seeing examples of schools in other jurisdictions going terribly, with the disease spreading fast creating more problems and putting the health of students and teachers at risk. Just today it’s being reported that “more than 80 students in Quebec City are in isolation after three cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at two high schools”. These are the kinds of stories that are coming to Ontario soon and could be much worse if the political leaders in power don’t get their crap together.
And for me, that’s what probably pissed me off the most about the crap running around social media from so many politicians on both ends of the spectrum. Right now is a serious time, one that demands focus on very serious matters that demand real solutions and attention. We don’t have the time to be sidetracked by anyone’s dog whistles about conspiracy theories, statues or any other crap like that. We simply can’t afford to take our eyes off the ball and the last few days, our eyes have been anywhere except for on the ball.
Instead far too many of our political leaders have been off on partisan instant gratification kicks, imbibing the juices of hardcore partisanship and getting drunk on them in the process, complete with all the telltale signs of what comes with extreme inebriation. I keep looking for some adults in the room to grab a hold of this situation that spinning out of control but they are extremely few and far between, mostly because they are being egged on by their own partisans to take a few swigs of that hardcore juice themselves.
We can point to other groups with malign motives, other nations trying to undo our democratic society and all of those dangers that are out there. But none of them can succeed, none of them will work if we keep our heads straight and not give them exactly what they want. Seriously, watching what’s happening stateside is watching what feels like the end of that democratic republic. But what’s even more concerning is seeing some of those same fights, the same language and same conspiracy theories becoming a bigger part of our discourse with a maple syrup twist to them. Seriously, enough is enough of this crap.
More an anything else in this moment, I pine for some adults in all parties to step forward. I pine for some serious politicians looking to actually deal with our problems. It’s what this moment demands without a question, and most of these same politicians understood that back in March and April. But now? Where in the Hell are you now? The fact is that we are in hard times, with harder times coming and no end in sight. That is our reality and we can’t wish it away. Now is the time that our political leaders need to grow up, step forward and stop it with the over the top, partisan advantage crap. These problems are coming and won’t go away, no matter how many times you utter a conspiracy theory, call another politician a traitor or an enemy of the people or call someone less of a Canadian than you. Either our politicians get their crap together and deal with these issues that are here and coming, or those problems will eventually deal with us. I keep hoping and praying that some sanity will come to all of this, but that hope is quickly running out. It’s feeling more and more like an awful Fall and Winter is coming for our country, and at this point it feels like we’ll have no one but ourselves to blame for it if our political leaders don’t pull their heads out of their collective rear ends.