Commission offers Ford a chance to cement COVID-19 legacy

The display of leadership shown by Premier Doug Ford during the COVID-19 Pandemic has certainly rehabilitated the formerly embattled leader’s image in the eyes of a good number of Ontario voters.

And for good reason.

In dire times such as these, some leaders rise to the occasion, providing good crisis management, a voice of calm and reassurance and steer the proverbial ship through stormy weather.

Whether Ford can make this a long lasting transition of positivity in the hearts and minds of the Ontario electorate remains to be seen. Remember the sky-high approval ratings of President George HW Bush at the conclusion of the first war with Iraq in the spring of 1991 and how quickly the 41st president fell out of favour with American voters later that fall.

It’s not to say Ford has had the Midas as touch throughout the COVID-19 pandemic but, on the whole, he’s done a better than middling job guiding Ontario through the greatest public health crisis in over 100 years.

But if Ford really wants to cement his status as more than just a leader who was able to put out a pandemic fire and not much else, a good place to start would be at the conclusion of an independent commission tasked with examining what’s transpired at Ontario’s Long Term Care homes in the age of COVID-19.

In September, an independent and non-partisan body whose terms of reference, membership and leadership are still being determined, will start to unravel the circumstances as to why Ontario’s old age homes have been ravaged by COVID-19. To date, over 1,300 seniors living in LTC facilities have died as a result of the novel coronavirus. Ontarians want and deserve answers as to why their loved ones have expired disproportionately when compared to other segments of society.

Independent and non-partisan are good places to start when it comes to determining the hows and the whys in this matter but the findings must lead to better policies and practices within the LTC structure in Ontario.

After Ford announced the commission, Ontario Health Coalition’s Executive Director Natalie Mehara said she supported the activation of this independent body with some key caveats. Mehara, who has spoke in Prince Edward County a number of times representing the OHC’s view on the importance of Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital, said the commission should be launched under the public inquiries act and fully independent of for-profit long-term care operators.

That’s something we agree with considering the high ratio of COVID-19 cases at for-profit homes compared to public facilities.

The Executive Director added any commission must have unimpeachable credibility and operate in the public interest.

“It must be transparent and open, not by invitation. Testimony and research must be on the record and fully available publicly as with formal commissions and inquiries in the past, and the commission must report as quickly as possible,” she stated.

Whatever the findings are, the Ford government must react swiftly and develop and enact policy without delay.

There will be pain and the for-profit homes know this.

There are far too many of them have been staffing on a part time basis in order keep labour costs low and its a safe bet cross-contamination from facility to facility is going to be part of the findings as to why a mass of COVID-19 breakouts in LTC homes. Mandating a critical mass of full time employment at Ontario’s LTC facilities is good care policy that needs to be implemented.

All of Ford’s hard work of managing the COVID-19 pandemic will be for naught if he won’t accept and make public the commission’s findings and then go to work fixing the ills that allowed this nightmarish scenario targetting Ontario’s most frail and elderly to transpire.

-Jason Parks

PICTURING OUR COMMUNITY

GETTING A GOOD LOOK – A young white tail deer in Ameliasburgh emerged from the bushes to have a look around the landscape only to dart back from whence it came just moments after this picture was taken. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)