by Tim KitzN
o one familiar with Doug Ford’s government — or indeed conservative ideology in general — will be surprised by the incompetence of lockdown measures announced April 16 for Ontario. More police powers but no support for essential workers — this approach crystallizes the dangerous ignorance of Ford’s responses to the pandemic. His government is blinded by a conservative ideology that can only see a public health crisis as a nail that needs the hammer of law enforcement to solve.
If there’s no problem for law enforcement to solve, just create one! Invent new regulations that place everyone going outside under suspicion and give the police probably-unconstitutional powers to enforce these rubbish regulations.
As worrying as the latest wave is, we need to remember that spending time outside is actually — still — an activity that is a profoundly safe and psychologically helpful. 99.9% of infections occur indoors, according to one study in Ireland during an outbreak of the UK variant. Cracking down on activities outside is not just a waste, it’s counter-productive. If people know they could be accosted and fined by police for being outside for “frivolous” reasons, those who are pandemic-weary and going stir-crazy will be driven to take their chances indoors, where the real danger lurks, instead of socializing outside where it’s safe as the weather warms.
If only the police could arrest the virus, Doug Ford might know what to do with it.
It turns out that even the police don’t even want these new powers. Police forces in Ottawa, London, Peterborough, Peel, Toronto, and Hamilton, York, and Cornwall have all announced they will not conduct random checks. (It’s almost like the Ford government is just making shit up no one wants or needs!) Meanwhile workers, unions, and experts have been calling for paid sick leave for essential workers for over a year. These pleas continue to fall on the deaf ears of the Conservative government. God forbid that they ever increase social support spending — or support workers over owners and corporations — despite the proven and systemic help that measures like paid sick leave would provide. Why do that when they can demonize those socializing outside, as if they’re the source of growing infections?
The fact is that most infections in Ontario are happening in workplaces at the moment, but Ford also won’t prioritize vaccines for those who are most exposed. Vaccines will continue to go to — for example — comfortable retirees who can afford to stay safe home, but who are old enough to qualify. Who cares about the essential and often-racialized workers who are exposed to the risk of infection every day and who cannot afford to miss work if they want to make rent? Not Ford, despite his faux ‘I’m on the side of ordinary people’ populism.
The fact that the Conservatives have had to moderate these police powers almost right away shows how ill-conceived they were in the first place. Nevermind ignoring public health experts, they clearly didn’t even bother to consult the police. And when was the last time you heard the police refuse increased powers? You know you’ve gone truly too far when the police actually say “no, thanks” to more power.
The depressing reality is that more people will die while the Conservatives flail around with ineffective, counter-productive, and reality-denying strategies to manage the pandemic. We need to find creative ways to tell the truth about this, resist, and keep each other safe.