Last week, Premier Doug Ford visited Wheatley, along with Greg Rickford, Minister of Mines, Northern Development, Natural Resources and Forestry.
Kudos for them for finally showing up and expressing an interest. It only took an explosion to cause them to take note.
After two leaks were reported in June and then July, the province had not stepped up. Fortunately, despite the blast, no one was killed.
This newspaper, and we bet many other area media outlets, would have loved to have asked the premier and his minister why it took an explosion for them to show a serious interest.
But no media had access to the premier during his visit. In fact, none of us were even informed he was coming. We learned of the visit after the fact as some gift-wrapped images and spoon-fed information arrived via e-mail to various journalists.
The mayor and top Chatham-Kent brass knew. But, several municipal councillors said they found out about the premier’s visit afterwards as well.
Several members of the Wheatley BIA had to have known. There are selfies on social media with the premier.
Why the secrecy? According to the premier’s office, the tour was closed to the media for safety reasons, ostensibly to protect folks from going near the site of the explosion.
We think that excuse smells as bad as leaking hydrogen sulphide.
The premier showed up inside a riding whose MPP, Rick Nicholls, got booted out of Conservative caucus by Ford because he refused to get vaccinated. Nicholls has called COVID-19 vaccine an “experimental drug.”
Ford’s visit took place the day after the federal election where the People’s Party of Canada received about 7,800 votes. The PPC supporters are largely anti-mask, anti-vaccine.
And the day after the premier’s visit, his mandatory proof of vaccination regulations came into effect for dining in restaurants, etc.
In other words, tough timing for the premier to potentially face protestors, or field questions about the new regulations.
Furthermore, there are some irate residents in Wheatley over the failure to prevent an explosion, despite two prior incidents over the summer of detected hydrogen sulphide leaks.
Had the premier let the media know he was coming, the media would have informed the public, as is our job. And that would have likely led to protesters.
Instead, queue the provincial spin doctors.