Doug Ford can't get story straight on his COVID response

'We did extremely well compared to the rest of the world,' said Ontario Premier Doug Ford when asked about his government's response to the COVID pandemic. That contradicts his April 2020 remarks: 'We had some of the strictest regulations in the world.'

Doug Ford can't get story straight on his COVID response
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Ontario Premier Doug Ford told conflicting messages to the media on Monday regarding his government’s performance on the COVID pandemic.

“We’re four years into the pandemic. When you look back on that, what do we see? What have we learned?” asked a reporter. “What I learned is when we all work together — when we put our political stripes to the side — we’re unstoppable,” replied Ford. 

“We did extremely well compared to the rest of the world,” he claimed. “Everyone pitched in, everyone helped out, from the manufacturers, the healthcare workers and industry.”

“Everyone did an incredible job — I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Ford’s questionable remarks contravene a prior media address where he suggested otherwise two years ago.

“We had some of the strictest regulations in the world,” he claimed in April 2022. “I was accused of being the toughest leader on mandates.”

In neither instance did Premier Ford reference his draconian bill widely considered a pandemic power grab.

In a July 2020 media release by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), the non-profit human rights organization condemned Ontario for shutting down debate on the pandemic.

On July 7, 2020, the Ford government introduced Bill 195, the ReOpening Ontario Act, to effectively extend their emergency powers while eliminating oversight mechanisms for “flexibility.” 

“It is a fundamentally anti-democratic move, and to make matters worse, the government has introduced a time allocation motion that will allow the bill to be passed without even undergoing a review by a legislative committee and with severely limited debate,” the CCLA said in a statement. 

“It eliminates the need for the government to declare an ongoing public health emergency and seek the legislative assembly’s approval of continued extensions.” 

Then-PC MPP Belinda Karahalios was among the lone dissenting voices within the governing caucus, resulting in her expulsion from the Ford's Progressive Conservatives that month.

Before Bill 195, the emergency measures impacted every facet of the Ontario taxpayer. 

“This is the law the provincial government has invoked to close public spaces, shutter schools and businesses, redeploy health-care workers, override collective agreements, freeze residential evictions, severely restrict social, religious and cultural gatherings, and authorize the issuance of over $2.4 million in fines, to date, for alleged non-compliance,” continued the CCLA.

“In short, to confront an unprecedented pandemic, it has been used to compel unprecedented restrictions on individuals’ liberties,” they said.

The human rights organization emphasized democratic checks and balances “are even more critical” during a state of emergency.

Before Bill 195 received royal assent, the legislative assembly would have to approve extensions of the state of emergency every 28 days. As of July 24, 2020, the premier and executive branch could renew draconian mandates without parliamentary debate for one year.

“By definition, an emergency cannot become the status quo,” the CCLA said at the time. “An emergency, for legal purposes, is literally exceptional. Emergency powers must be exceptional too.”

PC MPP Roman Baber penned a letter to Ford the following January where he suggested their draconian pandemic measures caused more harm than good.

Writing on behalf of his North York constituents, and “pleading for the lives and livelihoods ruined” in the name of public health, Baber said: “The medicine is killing the patient.”

“The lockdown isn't working. It's causing an avalanche of suicides, overdoses, bankruptcies, divorces and takes an immense toll on our children,” he continued. 

Baber urged the premier to lift the lockdown, before listing a number of footnoted statistics on the impact of lockdowns on health and society, the toll taken on children, as well as hospital and intensive care statistics. Not long after making his letter public, Ford expelled Baber from caucus. 

“The Ontario government wants to convince the population that we are easing back into normalcy while retaining enormous power,” the CCLA suggested. “At some point the state of emergency must end.”

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