The Ontario government has kicked out one of its own members after an MPP wrote a letter to Doug Ford calling for the end to the lockdown measures implemented due to a surge in coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations.
“The lockdowns are deadlier than COVID,” wrote Roman Baber, MPP for Toronto’s York-Centre riding, as the title of his letter to the premier posted on social media Friday morning. Baber had been elected as a Progressive Conservative MPP in the 2018 provincial election.
“I wrote a respectful letter to Premier Ford, asking to end the Lockdown. Look at the data — the virus is real but the crisis is mostly in LTC (long-term care),” Baber said in his tweet. “Let’s focus on LTC & hospital capacity, but ending the Lockdown is best for our health.”
Baber attached a copy of the letter to his tweet and to his Facebook page. In the letter, he writes that “the medicine is killing the patient” and “Ontario’s hospital and ICU capacity are better than in the last three years.”
“Effective immediately, Mr. Baber will no longer be sitting as a member of the PC Caucus and will not be permitted to seek re-election as a PC member,” said Ford in a statement, in response to Baber’s letter.
“I am the first to recognize that COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on people. However, as Premier, my number one priority is the health and safety of all Ontarians,” Ford continued.
Ford said Baber’s comments are “irresponsible” and by “spreading misinformation he is undermining the tireless efforts of our frontline health care workers at this critical time, and he is putting people at risk. I will not jeopardize a single Ontarian’s life by ignoring public health advice.”
In the letter, Baber said, “The lockdown isn’t working,” and says “It’s causing an avalanche of suicides, overdoses, bankruptcies, divorces and takes an immense toll on our children.”
The letter goes against all of Ford’s policies on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and lists “figures” from a list of other diseases and illnesses such as cancer, overdose rates and mental health.
“Covid is real, but the fear of Covid is exaggerated. While every death is tragic, after 10 months we learned that Covid is not nearly as deadly as first thought – it has a 99.98 per cent infection survival rate,” said Baber in the letter.
In his response to Baber’s allegations, Ford said, “There is no room for political ideology in our fight against COVID-19 — rather, our response has been and will always be driven by evidence and data.”
The Ontario government provided a fact sheet to counter some of the figures Baber wrote in his letter, including on hospitalizations, ICUs and deaths.
When it comes to Baber’s claim regarding suicides, the provincial government said, “Based on preliminary data and analysis, the Office of The Chief Coroner for Ontario has not observed an increase in the number of suicides that occurred from January 2020 to June 2020, when compared with data from recent years.”
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On Tuesday, Ontario’s health table released modelling projections for COVID-19 in the province for the weeks ahead that indicated a possible further growth in deaths.
“To give you an idea of this in relation to other causes of mortality, this would really put COVID-19 into competition for being the single greatest cause of mortality on a daily basis at that point, potentially larger than cancer and heart disease,” said Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, who worked on the projections.
“It’s already larger than virtually every other cause that we look at, but this will put it into the first position with very little opportunity for challenge,” Brown said.
For hospitalizations, Dr. Brown said more than half of Ontario’s ICU’s are already full or only have one or two beds left.
“Dr. Brown notes that if we stay on our current trajectory, there will be more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients in ICU by early February. That would be catastrophic,” the government said in its fact sheet.
Baber responded shortly after Ford’s statement to being removed from the PC Party caucus and said: “It’s a regretful decision since many colleagues agree with me … I don’t regret speaking out for millions of lives and livelihoods decimated by Public Health.”
Before the 2018 election, Baber was a lawyer, primarily in the areas of insurance and commercial litigation, and is not a medical professional.
The Ontario government implemented a second state of emergency on Tuesday and a stay-at-home order came into effect on Thursday. Previously, the entire province had been put under lockdown on Boxing Day with some hotspot regions in lockdown since the end of November.
Some non-essential businesses were forced to close and others limited to delivery or curbside-pickup.
— With files from Ryan Rocca.