Editor: As both Michigan and Ontario struggle to manage variants, their strategies to do so could not be more different.
During last week’s press conference, Premier Ford ushered in what was in is his own words “the most restrictive COVID measures in North America.” A two-week stay-at-home order was to be extended to six weeks, complete with enhanced police powers to ensure compliance (since restructured). Rough numbers for Ontario last Thursday indicate approximately 4,000 new cases for a provincial population teetering on 14 million.
Meanwhile, the State of Michigan, with a population shy of 10 million, experienced in excess of 8,000 cases on the same day and rather than being locked down, Michigan has largely remained open including bars, restaurants and retail.
When emerging from Ontario’s first lockdown last spring, the Ford government was determined that all regions would do so at the same time, however it became apparent rather quickly that Toronto and the GTA were lagging well behind most regions in the province. Ford’s strategy then shifted in order to allow regions with lower case counts to open well before Toronto. The slow pace of reopening and the reasoning and rationale driving it remained somewhat cryptic and ultimately became a very frustrating process for affected citizens, politicians and the media.
The net result of this frustration was the development of a science-based colour-coded framework that was predictable and that worked well in terms of either dialing-up or loosening local restrictions. Unfortunately, when the second and third wave hit the GTA area, the Ford government reacted in panic mode throwing the entire province into lockdown, including regions that were green, yellow and orange on the framework.
This letter is not about a call to freedom or to advocate for the Michigan model; it’s about a need to return to the framework in order to mitigate the damage caused by lockdowns to our children, residents, communities and businesses. For months now we have been hearing the crisis calls from health professionals including those involved with mental health services, surgeons, oncologists, physicians and other specialists, all sounding the alarm about a fourth wave related to the fallout associated with lockdowns. Additionally, emergency doctors are noting an increase in child abuse and spousal abuse, while marital failures, suicides, and overdoses all continue to spike.
With each successive wave, Toronto and the GTA have proven to be the primary drivers of COVID cases and related fallout in the province. Ford has consistently referred to Toronto and the GTA as a “hot spot” and even admitted during last Thursday’s announcement that the GTA area accounts for 20 per cent of the province geographically yet generates 80 percent of the COVID caseload. Given this scenario, why is it that the balance of the province must endure the devastating effects of lockdowns when it is clearly a Toronto problem?
There is no Ontario COVID crisis but there most certainly is a Toronto, GTA COVID crisis and as the framework would suggest, they should indeed be in lockdown. Clearly Doug Ford needs to reign-in his Toronto area one-size-fits-all solution for the province and immediately return the province to the framework that has guided municipalities and their associated health units so well in the past.
Locking down the entire province with the bizarre notion that it is somehow going to mitigate the crisis in the GTA is ridiculous at best. If Ford is interested in setting up border points at provincial boundaries, I would suggest that we would all be better served if he set them up on major highways leading in and out of the greater Toronto area.
Even in the best of times, the balance of Ontario has struggled with the pandering and egocentric needs of Toronto. Tired of this dog controlling the wag in our tail, it’s certainly time for non-GTA politicians of all stripes to band together and demand a return to the framework that will serve the needs of children, constituents and businesses.