Sabrina Almeida

Will the approval ratings of Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau survive the COVID test? Let’s just say that the chill they are starting to feel, may not be just because it is winter. And the longer the coronavirus keeps businesses shut and us confined to our homes, the harder it will get for our political leaders to stay in the public’s favour.

A lot has changed since the pandemic first surfaced. While Trudeau was seen as a hero, both here and abroad, for opening up Canada’s wallet of emergency benefits wider than we could afford, his government’s alleged mishandling of the vaccine deals might be his undoing.

An Ipsos poll conducted at the end of October showed that the prime minister’s COVID approval rating had fallen 15 points since April to around 59%. Mind you, that was before the vaccine allocation debacle started to become apparent.

As news of more countries  approving and distributing vaccines to their citizens reaches our northern shores, the stronger the feeling of being short sold will grow among Canadians. The fall from grace might be faster than vaccine distribution.

Anger is already mounting amidst rumours that the general population might not be vaccinated till 2022. And premiers deflecting their own shortcomings with calls for answers from the federal government about vaccine arrival and allocation might be the only thing that keeps them afloat while pulling Trudeau down.

Trudeau’s weak attempt to blame the delay on Canada’s lack of domestic vaccine production only made a bad situation worse. Now Canadians want to know why  our pharmaceutical sector did not step up to the challenge. Ford found himself in the hot seat with Trudeau which might put their COVID-minted truce to the test. He quickly seized the opportunity to redeem his own falling approval ratings by promising to look into why Ontario’s pharma was not given the opportunity to rescue the country and its unemployed workforce from the dire situation.

Ironically, all the announcements the prime minister and his team make about deals inked with vaccine manufacturers, to salvage the situation, are starting to have the opposite effect with some Canadians feeling it is going the same way as the WE Charity scandal.

The second wave of the coronavirus that has engulfed Toronto and Peel also brought a truckload of problems for Premier Doug Ford who had received rave reviews for his initial handling of the pandemic. 

A recent Angus Reid poll on premiers’ performance saw Ford’s approval rating fell 11 points in the last three months and is now sitting at 55%.

The auditor general’s scathing review of the provincial response to COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time for Ford. Many Ontarians are asking whether it was really a lack of leadership on Dr. David William’s part or is he simply the fall guy? After all the report says that it was not the health table that was making decisions. Moreover, the decision to retain Dr. Williams, who has been widely criticized, even asked to step down by the Registered Nurses Association has raised eyebrows. Many health care practitioners echo the nursing association’s feeling in private according to newspaper reports.

But what might really be hurting Ford is his side-stepping of critical questions. Not every problem or issue can be resolved by expressing love for healthcare workers and sympathy for small business owners. Or, calling people who flout public health guidelines ‘buffoons’. We need our politicians to walk the talk.

Ford’s simplified responses of shoutouts to frontline workers for their valuable contributions and his heartbreaking for shuttered businesses bring to mind Trump’s hollow statements. Honesty and transparency might actually give Ford the break he is looking for, not his flowery words.

I am reminded of the teacher who created a bingo game based on Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s responses. It appears that we could easily create a second edition dedicated to Ontario’s premier.

While Ford might think advocating for businesses can pave the way to a second term, prioritizing public health might earn him the respect and vote of Ontarians across party lines. Simply put an even bigger majority. 

But the clock on Ontarian’s patience is ticking, and Ford must act on his words right away. For instance, the time taken to crackdown the Adamson BBQ owner, whose actions Ford appeared to initially justify, is now being attributed to white privilege. An opinion that the opposition will no doubt be quick to take advantage of.

If Ford is really about fighting for all Ontarians, health will have to be the only priority and all else will follow when the time is right. We need the Premier Ford we saw at the start of the pandemic to step up.

As for our prime minister, his transgressions seem to become bigger and more frequent. The belief   that we do not have a better option does not give the Liberals the right to act like they are not accountable. The next election might be a rude awakening!

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