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Opinion Doug Ford must resign

Ontario Premier Doug Ford during a meeting of Canada's provincial premiers in Toronto in 2019. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)
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As Ontario Premier Doug Ford sat down at a Friday afternoon news conference to announce his plans to extend the province’s covid-19 measures, social media feeds erupted with posts from around the province, from around the country, uniformly expressing outrage, frustration, shock and despondence.

Ford opened by blaming the federal government for not providing the province with sufficient vaccine supply, abdicating his responsibility for a pandemic that was never going to be solved immediately by vaccines. He moved on to the absurd claim that Ontario has the toughest measures in North America, which is untrue. He said he was restricting outdoor gatherings (which tend to be far safer than indoor gatherings) while permitting factories, food-processing plants and warehouses to operate, intimating that a seesaw is a greater threat than a fulfillment center — or, at least, that outdoor recreation and the physical and mental health that comes with it are less important than moving goods. On Saturday, he reversed a decision to close playgrounds but kept other outdoor restrictions in place.

Gaunt and drawn on Friday, he announced that his government was empowering police to arbitrarily stop anyone who is outside their residence during the province’s lockdown, giving law enforcement extraordinary powers that threaten civil rights, especially among vulnerable and racialized populations. Within hours of the news conference, several police departments indicated they would not being conducting “random” checks, including Ottawa, Waterloo and Peterborough. Others soon followed, including Toronto and Hamilton. That may seem welcome news, but it is not nearly good enough. These statements are not guarantees that individuals won’t be harassed, intimidated, fined or arrested. On Saturday, Ford updated this measure, too; the regulation, however, remains a civil liberties threat.

As he deflected blame and lost the plot, Ford made no mention of paid sick days, which advocates have been begging for. Indeed, aside from promising to improve hot-spot vaccination distribution and limit interprovincial travel, he offered little of value to fight Ontario’s third wave, as cases surge and the health system nears the brink of collapse. We’ve all heard that we ought not to let the perfect become the enemy of the good, but it’s a bit too much to expect us to let whatever is politically expedient for the premier take the place of what is necessary for the rest of us.

Ford was never fit to be premier of Ontario. The pandemic didn’t reveal that; it just bathed it in the garish light of emergency. Both before his time in provincial politics and since, he has shown no distinction other than his extraordinary capacity to alienate, divide and fail. And the failures are many and epic. As I argued in 2018, he brought U.S.-style culture wars to Ontario. He interfered in local politics during an election and desecrated Toronto’s city council. He froze the minimum wage and rolled back protected, paid sick days. He cut Toronto public health funding, and library funding, and legal aid funding, and flood funding. He opposed safe injection sites. He couldn’t even figure out how to produce license plates that work. The list goes on and on.

Over a year into the pandemic, things are worse in Ontario than they have been since it began. Despite warnings from health experts and dire predictions from modeling, the province was slow to adopt necessary measures to slow transmission. They even waited, as QP Briefing reports, “an extra week to implement a stay-at-home order to see if the modeling that predicted overflowing hospitals was coming true.” Now, Ford’s latest measures miss the mark while exacerbating stressors and risks for essential workers, parents and others struggling day to day. Instead of sick days, a coherent and accessible vaccination program, and better testing and tracing, Ontarians are getting lectured for not yanking up their bootstraps enough while they go nuts at home or drag themselves into an unsafe workplace.

Enough is enough. It’s time for Ford to go. He must resign.

Getting rid of a premier with a majority government is difficult outside of an election. But Ontarians cannot wait to hold Ford accountable at the ballot box. A caucus revolt might do it. But even without one, for the good of the province and his own party, Ford should catch the next train to political oblivion.