For a community college dropout Doug Ford has shown himself to be remarkably sophisticated in managing his own public relations. His empathy in commiserating with small businesses owners who have been clobbered by the COVID pandemic seems genuine, in sharp contrast to the breathy pronouncements we get from Ottawa.
But trust is a fragile thing and once lost, is hard to get back. Anyone who watches the Premier’s daily news conference can track the increasingly sharp tone of the questioning the Premier is fielding. One of the most persistent questions Ford and his ministers and senior officials have been receiving, and frankly, not handling well, is the question of precisely what are the metrics that the “health table” uses in determining whether various regions of the province need to go into stricter lockdown?
The answers have been vague and unsatisfactory, and combined with some inconsistencies in actual medical advice i.e the early confusion over use of masks; erode trust and create the impression that the health table is making stuff up on the fly. Now Ford faces the embarrassment of being publicly, albeit in the most deferential of terms, rebuked by two of his own members. The letter penned by MPPs Jane McKenna and Parm Gill and co-signed by the Regional Chair and the Mayor of Milton was addressed to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, not the Premier; but everyone knows who will make the final decision about a Halton lockdown.
McKenna and Gill, showed refreshing independence, in a system that for decades has reduced the role of MPPs to being essentially public relations shills for the government, making announcements and more usually, re-announcements, of routine government investments. They are both parliamentary assistants to ministers and it will be interesting to see if they end up joining that tiny band of Conservative MPPs who are neither ministers nor PA’s. On the other hand, the mini revolt may give Ford some leeway to free himself from his oft stated position that he will, “always listen to the health experts.” No one is suggesting that Ontario should emulate the chaos south of the border. As alarming as Ontario’s numbers have become in the past few weeks we are still miles ahead of most US jurisdictions. But Ford’s health officials need to take the public into their confidence completely and without equivocation if they expect compliance with their directives