Last week Doug Ford was presiding over a ground-breaking, the sort of event politicians have always loved. It was for a new long-term care home in Toronto. Ford was taking a victory lap and feeling expansive. His off-the-cuff responses to media questions turned out to be a major statement of policy regarding Covid – 19.
The Premier as Anarchist
You can watch his answers on the YouTube video of the event, from 15 minutes to the end and The Globe and Mail ran an article about it. His basic position on the virus, and possibly the core of his political philosophy is that “no one should be forced to do anything.” So his answer about mandatory vaccination for workers in any industry was “a hard no.” And there will be no vaccine passports because that would lead to “a split society.” Finally, he claims that “it’s our constitutional right not to take [vaccinations].”
Ford contradicted himself because people were forced to do, and not to do, many things during our recent lockdowns. As for constitutional rights, Ford’s background suggests that, in the idiom of a previous generation, he doesn’t know shit from shinola.
Ford did say that he was advised by the Chief Medical Officer of Health and at least one member of the science table that mandatory vaccination isn’t necessary. Ford did not reveal any more of his thinking or consultation, for example whether the questions of mandatory vaccination for certain groups (say, health care workers), vaccine passports, or employer mandates were discussed in Cabinet. And perhaps his aversion to “a split society” is a euphemistic way of saving that he doesn’t want to alienate his political base.
The Fourth Wave
Ford’s attitude and presentation now are reminiscent of his attitude and presentations last summer. The virus was then under control, with very few cases, and there was nothing to worry about. Then the second and third waves came. Experience with the Delta variant in places that have high vaccination rates, most notably the UK, suggests that complacency is not the best policy. But clearly Ford has chosen complacency. Ford wants us to believe that we have definitively won the battle against Covid, that the economy will boom, and that his re-election next year will be, in one of his favourite words, “a no-brainer.”
Ford could have taken a different approach. His government could be watching and preparing for the fourth wave. He could have expressed support for employers and businesses requiring vaccination of their employees or customers. Ford could have discussed how Ontario’s proof of vaccination forms could be used as the basis for a vaccine passport.
Ford’s views on these questions are not universally popular and The Globe and Mail has editorialized against them in general and the Toronto Star favours mandatory vaccination in both the health and educational sectors.
If there is a fourth wave, Ford will own it. Metaphorically, a leader must be able to see beyond the calm water to the next set of rapids. Ford has never had that capacity and Ontarians will suffer because of his weakness.