As a practitioner of the political arts, I can’t help but watch and observe how people of the others side or other political teams operate. I’m a big believer that we can all learn things from others, and sometimes another team does things in a way that can help inform or improve our own performance. Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but it’s always been a part of my mindset.
But that kind of watching also comes with another side; watching those who never learn a thing or never change. That can be just as instructive as it is painful to watch, as it speaks not only to their approach but to the apparent limits of their abilities. It’s been with that in mind that I’ve watched many of the different governments during COVID, as they’ve faced the increasing challenges of this moment. If there was ever a time for a party to show personal growth and the ability to rise to a moment, surely this must be it. Yet here in Ontario, we have a government that’s falling way short on that front. As if to make my point, the Ford Conservatives have taken a couple of moves in the last couple days that just proves which side they are on, at the worst possible time. Let’s start with yesterdays reported next move by the Ford government, one that just left me shaking my head:
Look, I’ve had plenty to say about the apparent shortfalls of the Ford Government when it’s come to COVID and their response. Their instinct and general reaction always seems to come back to “do nothing and don’t spend your own money”, except in a few rare cases where they act and spend money on things that will do nothing to help. So in this moment where their government is under pressure to respond for their lacking response, instead of taking any responsibility for their inaction and crap, it looks like they are about to waste lots of money attacking Ottawa.
Instead of putting money towards making schools safer, or ensuring that public health measures are followed, they are going to waste millions (and I assume it will be in the millions if they are buying “significant TV and radio time”) of dollars attacking Ottawa. How many lives will be saved by those millions of dollars spent pointing their indignant fingers at Justin Trudeau, all in the attempt to deflect pressure on them? None. How many people will get vaccinated by the purchase of these political TV ads? No one. How many sick days will the funded by this cynical PR stunt by this government? Nada!
Yet that’s what they appear to be ready to do, which is disgusting as it can get. It reeks of Ford’s former failed political “gas pump sticker” disinformation plan on carbon pricing, which accomplished nothing except to cost a lot of money on cheaply made stickers and got shot down by the Federal courts as unconstitutional. You’d think an episode like that, that such a failure, would have caused the Ford team to pause and learn something from that lesson. Instead, it seems that they’ve learned nothing and are about to apply those non-lessons in the middle of a pandemic that’s ravaging Ontario. But if you thought that was their only response to trying to avoid any accountability for their own actions and in actions, we got another disgusting display of the Ford teams attempt today at Queen’s Park, which speaks for itself:
That is Ontario’s Long-Term Health Care Minister Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, refusing to take any responsibility for her ministries inactions in long-term health care facilities in Ontario during COVID. That’s despite a report coming out from Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission released its final report on Friday pointing out their failures. The report pointed out that Ontario had no plan to address pandemic or protect residents in long-term care, leading to so many deaths there in the first and second waves. It was a damning report that demanded serious accountability. Yet instead of delivering at least basic accountability, the Minister has refused to accept any. It’s not her fault, it’s not her government’s fault, it’s everyone else’s. And today, she attacked Ontario’s Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath, trying to blame her for the failures in LTC homes, said her questions were “obscene” and try to suggest that Horwath has never done anything to try to fix the LTC system in Ontario.
Not only was that stunningly ignorant on Fullerton’s part, it was completely wrong. For starters, Horwath has never been in government in Ontario, ever, so it’s not like she had any direct control over anything the government was doing since she joined the Ontario Legislature. So it’s not like she had lose levers of power and failed to use the. But despite being the leader of the second or third party in the Ontario Legislature for most of her time there, it’s not like he’s been silent on the topic. Here is just a taste of the times that she has spoken up to call for reform in LTC over the years:
Right there, in Hansard, quickly found in a few minutes search by a former Ontario NDP staffer, multiple examples going back to 2012. And I’m very confident in saying that if you took more time to search, there are plenty more examples. So not only has Horwath spoken out on this issue over time, she’s been doing it for over a decade and has been a vocal proponent of change to this system. All of that makes Fullerton’s flailing attempts to blame everyone else for her failures all the worse, and all the more disgusting. I’m not one who usually calls for the removal of ministers all willy nilly. But Dr. Fullerton surely must be reaching that point where she should be booted from her ministry, right?
Well in most governments, normal that would be the case, but not in this one. Nope, because she’s doing exactly what Doug Ford and his team want her to be doing. She’s just following the team’s game plan, as much as you can try to describe it as any kind of a plan. The further this all goes along, it’s becoming clearly that the Ford Government only has one gear when it comes to responding to anything. All they can do is attack and deflect. They are proving to be the epitome of the old say that “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” They have shown no growth, no ability to do better and no willingness to do so. This is what got them to where they are and they appear to be hell bent on sticking with it, no matter how ill-suited it is to the real crisis they are in.
This moment demands real leadership, not political bull shit and spin. This is a public health problem, not a political one, and the more that they treat it as a political problem, the more they will fail. For a while I had hoped that they could rise to this moment, if only because I don’t want to see them fail in the face of this pandemic. Their failure means people dying and I take no pleasure in that at all. Yet as things continue to progress, it’s clear that they aren’t going to rise to anything other than the same old, same old. That isn’t getting the job done now and it’s only making things worse. And no matter how much they try to blame everyone else, that is what people will remember and there is only one place where that blame will fall; on their shoulders. The only way to change that is to suck it up, accept responsibility and actually change to do better. And that won’t happen until this Blue Team learns to use something other than a hammer.
UPDATE: May 4, 2021 – 12:55 pm – I just wanted to add this video clip below, to speak to how absurd Minister Fullerton’s comments were today. I still remember when one of my political mentors, then Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton, gave this epic response to a question when asked about Long-Term Care. At that time, Andrew Horwath was a new member of that caucus, so this idea that she and the NDP haven’t been pushing on this issue for so long is beyond ugly.