Failure, thy name is Premier


So, things are not going great, are they?

I’m thinking in pretty Ontario-Quebec terms here, so please forgive me if you’re sick of that bit.  But here we are.

The last time we were in this position, it was a fair bit colder than it is now, way back in the pre-spring days of the early pandemic.  But despite coming so far, it feels like we’ve barely moved on at all.

And what have we learned in that whole time?  That masks work?  How is it that only in the last week Ontario Premier Doug Ford has made them mandatory inside?


Quebec just had a good day today when our daily new cases of COVID-19 dropped a hair below 1,000.  This is considered good news, in that maybe things have slowed down, after setting single-day records for new cases. 

We’re now a full week into a partial lockdown here in Montreal, so maybe things are going in the right direction for real.  But with all these new cases, many more are starting to end up in hospital.  There were about 150 in hospital last week, now there are more than 400.  That could double in two weeks, and double again in another two.

Now cases are beginning to build among older people, too.

This summer, premiers were able to bask int he glow of the curve flattening.  This is a bit bizarre, given the thousands of people that died.  But the public is a forgiving beast.  We seem to have collectively decided that our leaders did well enough in an unprecedented situation.

Which I think is misplaced.  The errors in Ontario and Quebec led to thousands of elderly people dying.  Some of them in horrendous conditions.  Almost all of them alone.  And things that could have been done — like banning workers from working in more than one facility — weren’t. 

The last wave we left the old among us essentially to die.  Of the approximately 9,500 people that have died of COVID in Canada, nearly 7,700 of them have died in some form of long-term care home, according to Nora Loreto.  (Who is, it should be noted, doing an incredible amount of work on her own time, and unpaid, to collect this information.)

That’s more than 80 percent. 

It’s kind of a disgusting thought to have, but it keeps running through my head: I’m very glad my 94-year-old grandmother died in January.  It was demoralizing enough for her to be stuck in lockdown for a week or two every flu season, when an outbreak would rip through the building.  But this… I can’t even imagine what it would have been like for her to be isolated for months at a time.

Her life had grown so small already — a fact she was aware of, and hated — but to shrink it down to that one room. 

It’s such a sad thought to have, and to have sincerely.  But there it is.  It’s better she died before all of this.  I hate it, but it’s the truth.

But anyway, now we’ve got a second wave of COVID washing over us once more.

You’d think, in those several months our governments might have got together and decided to actually prepare for an upsurge of cases.  No longer was this some unknown virus, sneaking its way into our communities.  We know where it is, where it was, and what needs to be done.

Those things were not done, though.

Ontario is the best example of this.  Over the summer, Ford was telling anyone who thought they needed a test to go get one.  The assumption you might have had, hearing something like that, is that first things were under control enough that there was room for more people to be tested.  The other assumption you might have had was that the testing system could now handle an influx of new people.

These were flawed assumptions. 

What had actually happened, according to the Toronto Star, is that the Ontario government dithered, hemmed, hawed, and generally just fucked around for the whole of the summer.  Instead of dropping down the necessary money when it could have made a difference for a second wave, they waited until the end of August to set aside.

Why?  I’ll let the Star take it from here: “According to various sources in the laboratory system, it will take at least three months, and likely more, to get Ontario to a maximum capacity of 100,000 tests per day.  Those familiar with the process said one phrase was a common thread in discussions: the bureaucrats would say, we have been told we need to be fiscally responsible.”

That’s right, they were too goddam cheap.

Now, dear friends in Ontario, you’re living with the unfortunate — but entirely foreseeable! — consequence of this blundering.  After massive testing backlogs, cresting near 100,000, and endless lines at testing centres, they’ve had to go to a by-appointment-only system. 

And now they’re trying frantically to roll back who’s coming in for a test.  Which will just make it harder to keep track of the virus, which will allow it spread further.  You see where this goes?

What no one seems to have learned is that if you wait too long to make a move, things spiral quickly.  And by the time you do something, it’s probably too late.  It takes two or so weeks for the effects of any restriction to make any difference. 

Take Quebec.  When there was an outbreak at a karaoke night at a bar in Quebec City, it took at least a week for the government to decide, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t allow karaoke.”  Why it was ever permitted is beyond me.  And now at least one person from that specific outbreak is dead.

What ever failures we accepted at the beginning of this thing, we shouldn’t take now.  What once was unprecedented now has plenty of precedent.

Our premiers are failing us, and its time we made that clear to them.

Photo Credit: Radio Canada

More from Robert Hiltz.     @robert_hiltz

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