From worry, to frustration, to despair

Yesterday was hard. It was hard to see the premier and other politicians elected to represent and protect Ontario’s citizens, presented the opportunity to finally — if far too late — do the right thing in the face of skyrocketing (but entirely predictable) COVID case numbers…and then bungle it so spectacularly. Instead of reinstating paid sick days, or any other protection of Ontario’s most vulnerable workers, Doug Ford chose to ignore science-based medical advice, and impose largely unhelpful restrictions on Ontarians. He denied them outdoor spaces, like playgrounds or campsites, even though the risk of outdoor transmission is very low and a generally-agreed-to-be-worthwhile risk given the physical and mental health benefits. He gave the police more power — likely unconstitutional power, mind you — to stop and question anyone they see on the street. Many municipal police forces have said they won’t use it, but if I were a Black person in this province, I would be very afraid indeed.

The Toronto Star’s front page today neatly sums up the frustration, shock, and rage at these latest moves. Not from people on the street, or on Twitter, but from medical and civil liberties experts.

Also yesterday, in an overtly political move, Ford declined an offer of Red Cross support from the federal government, saying “We do not have a capacity issue, we have a supply issue.” Both parts of that statement are false; on the same day his office issued that statement, Ford asked other provinces for help with capacity, equipment, and expertise. Meanwhile, vaccine doses go unused and appointments remain bafflingly difficult to book. Further: questions continue to swirl about why some postal codes were declared hotspots over others, when the data did not bear out such prioritization, and the aberrant data has some damning correlations to Tory minister ridings.

The province’s haphazard response a year ago could be blamed on confusion, the initial scramble of COVID panic and uncharted waters. Now, a year later, the premier and cabinet’s response can only be seen as inept and petty at best, dangerous and negligent at worst. Or, put another way:

To be clear, I feel all this frustration and rage out of empathy for my fellow Ontarians. I interact with this clusterfuck of an administration from the privileged vantage point of an affluent white man. I own my own house, with my own backyard, in a nice neighbourhood. I am not an essential worker, and I can work effectively from home 100% of the time. (Also, my employer provides paid sick days.) I have no kids climbing the walls, or other dependents. I have no pre-existing health conditions and, now that I’ve had COVID, I probably have some antibodies stored up. In the unlikely event that some cop stops me on my way to the pharmacy, my skin color will almost certainly keep anything bad from happening to me.

So if I feel all this, and I’m in quite possibly the most privileged state possible for an Ontarian, imagine how a front-line worker living in a poor or racialized neighbourhood feels. Imagine living at Jane & Finch, where you’re 9x more likely to be hospitalized but 4x less likely to be vaccinated than someone living in wealthy Moor Park (source) and FAR more likely to be targeted by police for the colour of your skin. Imagine the terror, and helplessness, felt by the most vulnerable Ontarians, as this doctor eloquently describes.

Of course, everyone I know with a brain in their head and a shred of empathy is already sickened by this, and feels something must be done. Unfortunately, both brains and empathy seem to be in short supply at Queen’s Park. Our outmatched premier has unnecessarily consigned hundreds of Ontarians to death at the hands of this virus, deaths which could have been avoided but for his incompetence and indifference.


In Macleans yesterday, Justin Ling got at why this is happening not just in Ontario, but effectively everywhere west of New Brunswick:

Scaremongering about outdoor transmission, and instituting curfews is a feat of social engineering. This an effort to ignore the data, withhold information, and twist the facts to scare us.

The conspiracy-minded will see that as an exercise in population control: Politicians getting their jollies off by playing dictator. 

The reality is more mundane—governments are doing this because they are frozen with indecision. Actually acknowledging the reality of the data means acknowledging this catastrophe was caused by governments’ idiotic reopening plans: Plans that were warned against by public officials at the time. Doing that means taking action that will hurt employment numbers, which could hurt our politicians fragile egos. Confronting this data and science also means admitting that all of our advice about washing your hands and not touching your face has been useless. And accepting that reality means provinces requiring sick leave, so people can go home if they’re ill.

Governments are loath to do any of that. They would rather shower us in meaningless pablum about how we, as citizens, need to do our part. The implication, of course, is that we are to blame for this crisis. That it’s us wayward youth who are driving this pandemic. Our lack of personal responsibility means they have to ground us to our rooms. Stay home, for god’s sake!

If our politicians stop blaming us for outbreaks, we may start blaming them.

Begone, 45

I should have more to say about the US election. I just don’t have it in me. And, truth be told, ever since I read this Atlantic article (published pre-election) about how Trump might try to gin up enough trouble to keep himself in power, I’m probably more nervous about his seemingly-clumsy protests and machinations than most.

I am just gonna leave this here though:

Portapique: an independent panel isn’t good enough [UPDATE: a public inquiry will proceed.]

After three months, there will finally be an investigation into the April mass shooting which started in Portapique, NS. Unfortunately, it likely won’t go far enough.

Despite the specific requests of victims and victims’ families, it will be an independent panel and not a public inquiry. The panel will have no ability to compel testimony, and will lack the transparency of an inquiry.

Paul Wells has been echoing the societal frustration well in Macleans all along, and summed it up after the panel announcement.

We might as well give it a name, this odd feeling of having been heard, understood—and ignored—by government.

It’s a familiar enough sensation, after all. It’s not that the lines of communication have broken down. It’s not that the message isn’t getting through. It’s not even that governments are inert or inactive. On the contrary, they’re whirlwinds of action. They’re just doing… something else… besides what circumstances warrant and populations demand.

This odd feeling is all I have after Mark Furey, Nova Scotia’s justice minister, and Bill Blair, the federal minister of public safety, announced the end of three months of confusion about how governments would respond to the April mass murder around Portapique, N.S. They’re convening a review. It’s like a public inquiry, only toothless and secretive.

Before the ministers’ announcement, I asked Dalhousie University law professor Archibald Kaiser for some comment on the delay in announcing any sort of inquiry. Kaiser sent me a long, thoughtful essay. “Instead of reassuring the public, the behaviour of governments has been opaque, tardy, uncertain, avoidant and condescending,” he wrote. “It is hard to make sense of why there have been so many bungles and missed opportunities in the aftermath of Canada’s worst mass killing.”

Paul Wells, Macleans, July 2020

The news of the government’s decision was met with protests this past weekend. Despite the CVs of the appointed panel, I fear their output will be met with disappointment. And the families and loved ones will be left to deal with the questions and doubts.

UPDATE: bowing to public pressure, the federal government has announced a public inquiry.

A book is not fast enough

I recently finished reading Naomi Klein’s new book No Is Not Enough (site | amazon | globe and mail | guardian), which she rushed out in response to Trump’s insanity. The funny thing is how hilariously out of date it already is. It came out in early June, and even forgetting about the lead time required to write, edit, print, and distribute the book, that release date predates a bunch of failed healthcare reform attempts, the Jeff Comey hearings, emails showing Trump’s son met with Russian officials ahead of the election, the Anthony Scaramucci saga, a Twitter escalation with a now-nuclear North Korea, Trump barring transgender individuals from service in the military (without telling the military), the firing of White House chief of staff Reince Preibus, and a refusal to condemn neo-Nazi rallies in Virginia. It’s been two months and she could probably write a second volume.

I fear the physical publishing business simply won’t be able to keep up with the sheer volume of the man’s idiocy. Best of luck to all the authors + editors out there.

“But he’s not even a very good Prime Minister.” “***WHO CARES HE’S FAMOUS OUTTA THE WAY LITTLE GIRL!!!!!!!!***”


I stared at this a lot last night. I mean, not this particular guy’s sweatpants-covered junk, but rather crowds of people all but standing on top of me.

See, Nellie and I went to the Raptors game last night. We hadn’t seen one in a while, and we decided to buy good tickets. After all, it was Andrew Wiggins’ first game in Canada, and against the T-Wolves the Raps were all but guaranteed a win. They did win, but it was closer than it should have been.

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Anyway, we discovered when we arrived (after it took us ten minutes just to walk the last 30 feet to our seats) that his gloriousness Stephen Harper was sitting across the aisle from us. That’s his head and torso (and, uh, son) in the bottom right of the picture. The crowds that were clogging up an entire section of the ACC weren’t his entourage, they were — and I still have a hard time even believing this — people lining up to have their picture taken with him.


Now, I’ll give the security guys credit: they actually tried to keep the aisle clear during play, as did the ushers. But the selfie-seekers are idiots, and would stand, gape-mouthed and blocking traffic, with Blackberries in hands until they could get a picture with that magnificent head of hair. As such we couldn’t see some of the game, and missed the entirety of the half-time show and on-court entertainment, including Raptor antics which, as everyone knows, are at least 15% of the reason to attend a game.

I actually felt a little bad for Harper…I think he just wanted to watch a basketball game with his kids. But then again, he decided to sit in a place which afforded maximum photo ops. Maybe he should have sat in a box where people wouldn’t bother him and where, oh I don’t know, crowds of people wouldn’t have trampled and blocked the thirty people nearest him who paid good money for their tickets.

The very best part? At some point in the evening he did a photo op with some actual players, and his social media lackey tagged the wrong player.

Oh, and the idiots next to us had a Wand of Narcissism, which just kind of capped off the evening.

11069260_10153062412070673_3175115648376994575_nMaybe the only thing salvaging the evening was meeting up with Kaylea, Jenna, and Jordan over some pizzas at Libretto. We used beer to wash away the distaste.