Dear Premier Ford:
Greetings from Muskoka, a bright jewel in Ontario’s crown!
I did not vote for you in the leadership race of a few years ago when you became leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. I voted for Christine Elliott.
I did vote for you in the subsequent provincial election, not with huge enthusiasm but because frankly, for me, there was no other choice. And so, over the past three years, I have watched with a somewhat jaundiced eye, hopeful for the sake of our province for your success, but certainly not one of your bootlickers.
I have to say now that, in my view, you have become a pretty good premier. Yes, there have been some rookie mistakes. Buck-a-beer wasn’t really a winner and didn’t start you off on a great foot. Pushing one of your buddies for OPP commissioner and supporting another who wanted to have his private educational institution accredited as a university when it discriminated against people with a certain sexual orientation were really dumb moves.
But on balance, if one were to ask the standard polling question ‘is Ontario in a better place today than it was three years ago’, I would say yes. This is especially so when you have had to deal with the game-changing COVID-19 pandemic, protect our economy under difficult circumstances, and also deal with a largely hostile mainstream media.
We will get to what I believe to be some of your accomplishments in a moment, but first I want to deal with the main reason I am writing to you and that is your apparent unwillingness to recognise the need to really clamp down on people who are anti-vaxxers or pandemic deniers.
While I note that in recent days your government has indicated that frontline workers in hospitals and long- term health facilities must be fully vaccinated, you were slow to do so. To the best of my knowledge, teachers, who will be facing classrooms of young students in just a few weeks, have not been told they must be fully vaccinated. They need to be.
Premier, you are well aware that we are on the cusp of a fourth wave of the COVID pandemic. Infections in Ontario have quadrupled in the last week or so and will inevitably climb higher as children get back to school. Surely the fact that more than 90 per cent of folks now infected with COVID-19 or its variants are those who are not vaccinated should be a real eye-opener.
In my view, Premier, you have done a really good job in rolling out the availability of COVID vaccines in Ontario. The feds of course want to take credit for this and much of the media is happy to help them do so.
The facts, however, are that the federal government was slow off the mark in making vaccines available to the provinces, but once they were, Ontario, not withstanding a few slipups, led Canada and indeed the United States on a per capita basis in getting needles into people’s arms.
You have also worked hard to balance the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic with the need to allow businesses and individuals to survive, and you have worked to ameliorate the effect that the pandemic has had on the mental health of a number of people.
As well, those that actually read your full plan for the reopening of our schools will see that is as thorough as can be expected under current circumstances, with the exception of requiring full vaccination for education employees.
You have also demonstrated empathy with the struggles many people in this province have endured during the pandemic and you have been accessible. I know of few politicians who actually pick up the phone and get back to their constituents and stakeholders when they call to the extent that you do.
All of this is well and good, Premier, but my message to you today is please don’t stop short of the finish line.
COVID-19 and its variants will not go away while a significant sector of our population remains unvaccinated. It needs to be beaten to the ground and, therefore, there is not a more important time than now, when tough leadership is needed to finish this race.
We need a vaccine mandate that requires double doses for all frontline workers in areas of health and education, and arguably in the entire public sector. We need anti-vaxxers to recognize that while they have the right to refuse vaccinations, they have no right to infect others and therefore would be ineligible for participation in public events or public transportation.
We need business and other entities in this province to know from you that it is okay to refuse entry to those who will not demonstrate that they are vaccinated or that they cannot be vaccinated. And we need mask mandates in indoor public places enforced.
Many places in the province are already taking that leadership, including universities like Ontario Tech University, Queen’s, Western, Guelph, and the University of Toronto. You should clap them on the back for that.
That of course means people need something to prove they have been vaccinated. I get your point, Premier, about vaccine passports. That seems a little over the top. But simple vaccination cards that can be carried in their purse or wallet along with their driver’s licence, which they also have to show from time to time, seems like a really good idea for the foreseeable future.
Premier, I know there are some people in your base of supporters that believe individual rights trump public safety. They are wrong and you know they are wrong. Of course, individual rights are important, but they do not trump collective rights when it comes to the spreading of a virulent disease. You will not lose their votes for standing up for that. They have nowhere else to go!
As I write this letter to you, Prime Minister Trudeau is asking the governor general to issue a writ of election, an election we do not need and that the vast majority of Canadians do not want. Simultaneously, payments in the amount of $500 from the Trudeau Government are gratuitously arriving in many seniors’ bank accounts while one of their Ministers is all over social media telling them how grateful they should be. Seems pretty close to the line to me, but the Liberals may just find out that old folks in Canada are not quite as gullible as they may think
Your favourite (just kidding) newspaper, theToronto Star, in its Friday front-page editorial in which they acknowledge that most Canadians don’t want an election, said this.
“All governments should be consumed with containing the fourth wave and finally ending the pandemic. Anything less is a failure of leadership. Canadians deserve better.”
And so, Premier, while the feds are wrapped up for the next five weeks promoting their own self interests, it will be up to leaders like you to steer us through the latest challenges of this ongoing pandemic with tough but necessary, focused leadership.
I know you can do it. Please do not let us down.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for South Muskoka Doppler.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!