This is the 12th in a series of opinion columns on the 2022 Ontario provincial election, written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.
Ontario’s government will never admit it, but they know that the pandemic was the best thing that ever happened to them.
It wasn’t just because Doug Ford got to show up on TV every day and talk about how well he was getting along with Chrystia Freeland and all the other premiers. It wasn’t just because there’s an entire faction of the party that is convinced—all evidence to the contrary—that a kinder, gentler, cherry-cheesecake-baking Doug Ford is the spoonful of sugar necessary to make the PC party’s medicine go down.
It’s because right-leaning folks in Canada absolutely love big, scary, uncontrollable, unprecedented, “once in a lifetime” events that make it impossible to proceed with deficit slashing, service cutting, union busting, and government shrinking.
And this is yet another Ontarian social nuance that, as a product of the Jewish community, it took me a while to understand.
When you grow up being told that it’s up to you to personally make sure the world never forgets the Holocaust, to produce or assist in the production of Jewish babies, and to ensure the State of Israel’s continued survival, it can be a bit shocking to see just how eager others are to accept that events like COVID-19 are all part of G-d’s plan—and that rather than double- and triple-down on masking and vaccines, everything must be given up to Him, because without Him, we can do nothing.
Oh sure, personal freedoms need to be respected, but the idea of restructuring society so something like this will never happen again is a big no-no. That presumes to do what only a higher power could and should do.
But if you aren’t inclined towards theological explanations for human behaviour, there’s a much more secular cultural quirk that the Ford government is exploiting to ride the COVID waves to re-election. It has to do with what Canadians (or so the theory goes) understand about our place in the world.
Because we are a “middle power” (or so the theory goes) we have little if any ability to influence world events. And we can’t control most domestic ones, either. When we can’t do much about global warming, inflation, war in Ukraine, or global supply chain woes… what could we have possibly done to stop a stubborn and deadly pandemic?
You could argue that Canadians accept that they don’t even have control over basic things like the economy. Think back to the Great Recession of 2008, when the Conservative Party of Canada warmly embraced Keynesianism and deficit spending. A turn of that magnitude couldn’t have been accomplished unless it had been in response to a worldwide and catastrophic event. As much as the Harper Conservatives had promoted spending cuts in the past, even they understood that their protestations amounted to spitting in a hurricane—and the voters knew it, too.
Had the novel coronavirus been confined just to Ontario, or if it had originated here, and if the international media had blamed us for the pandemic instead of China or focusing on lax American COVID protocols, I would guess Doug Ford would have resigned months ago.
This is also why Ontario-specific health events of the early 2000s, like the SARS outbreak and the deaths from E.Coli in Walkerton, hurt the last Ontario PC government much more than this one.
So, blast the Ford government for multiple shutdowns, reopenings and inconsistent public health guidelines—and shame them for putting the public at risk by lifting mask mandates, if you must.
But know also that because of the global nature and scope of this pandemic, most people won’t hold them responsible. And rivals won’t get far by telling you otherwise. No matter how hard they try.
Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.