Amid a public health crisis the likes of which Ontario has never seen, and a firestorm of criticism regarding the Ford government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic there are growing calls for the premier to step down.
On Sunday, a Washington Post op-ed by columnist David Moscrop titled “Doug Ford must resign” quickly became the most read story on the paper’s website. In the article, Moscrop wrote, “Over a year into the pandemic, things are worse in Ontario than they have been since it began.”
The column is scathing when it comes to Ford’s ability to lead the province moving forward.
“Getting rid of a premier with a majority government is difficult outside of an election. But Ontarians cannot wait to hold Ford accountable at the ballot box. A caucus revolt might do it. But even without one, for the good of the province and his own party, Ford should catch the next train to political oblivion,” Moscrop wrote.
The leader of Ontario’s official opposition Andrea Horwath told Global News Monday, “Of course Doug Ford should resign. He refused to listen to experts, and instead marched us into a brutal, horrifying and deadly third wave.”
“People are losing their lives — people who would have otherwise made it through this. Ontario deserves so much better,” Horwath continued.
Also on Monday, Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca issued a press release calling for Ford’s resignation writing bluntly, “Doug Ford is the worst premier in Ontario history at a time when leadership matters the most.”
Del Duca said Ford should resign before the situation gets any worse.
“If he does, I will be the first to commend him, because it takes real guts to get out of the way when he’s screwed up this badly. But he won’t. Because he only cares about himself and his special friends.”
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, however, said a leadership change at this time does not solve what he calls a “humanitarian crisis” facing Ontarians but added, “Ford has shown he’s not up to the job. He has spent more time playing the blame game than listening to experts and taking decisive action.”
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Many in the medical community are also speaking out. Dr. Rupinder Singh Sahsi, a Kitchener-based emergency room physician told Global News, “The middle of a crisis is a lousy time to have someone step aside, but lead, follow, or get out of the damn way of those who can.”
Sahsi said the Ford government was pursuing short-term gains when they chose to loosen restrictions despite medical experts warning it was too early to do so.
“Their attempts to shut down again were delayed, nonsensical, and confusing to the public,” Sahsi said.
“The case counts in this province aren’t because of yahoos having gatherings, children in playgrounds, or federal vaccine procurements that are actually ahead of schedule.”
“We’re here because of a provincial government that refused to implement the timely, evidence-based measures the experts have been screaming for. This disaster lies right at their feet,” the doctor added.
The director of Ontario’s COVID-19 scientific advisory table Dr. Peter Jüni said in an interview with Global News Monday he considered stepping down over the government ignoring expert advice.
“I was at a complete loss. On Friday it was like the floor would give way on me,” he said. “It really pains me. I was desperate. I see something that is perfectly avoidable happening anyway and it’s absolutely unclear to me why.”
“As soon as data became available we showed that the severity is much more considerable with the new variant, the challenge is then that we still had openings in February, we had reactions that came too late and that were not specific enough.”
On Premier Ford’s leadership he said, “We need to make sure that this province — that the people of this province get what is needed to avoid that it gets more severe than it already is.”
Another member of Ontario’s science table who did not want to be identified said, “They certainly have not been taking a lot of science table advice.”
The source added, “There is real criticism and there are real issues, there really are, and I think they got blown out of the water on several issues — one was closing outdoor activities which we know are safe and the second was policing of public health which doesn’t work. The third was we heard about restrictions but we still haven’t heard anything about support.”
The physician said they did not want to weigh in on if Ford should resign but added, “He’s the guy. Whether he’s the guy to get us through this is the question.”
Meanwhile, Doris Grinspun, the CEO of the Registered Nurses’ association of Ontario, called for Health Minister Christine Elliott to take over the province’s response to COVID-19.
“I don’t think that Premier Ford grasps the gravity of the third wave, either because he does not have the capacity to do so or because of ideology,” she said.
“He’s the boss period. If he cannot be the boss without some moral compass that is informed by solid science then he needs to let Christine, who is minister of health, do so and he needs to move aside.”
Criticism is not only coming from outside the party. Within the usually tight ranks of the PC caucus, concern is also bubbling over.
On the weekend PC Scarborough Centre MPP Christina Mitas wrote a letter to caucus questioning cabinet’s decisions, writing in part, “When we make decisions in an unaccountable manner that is not based on facts and data we risk the restoration of faith that we set out to bring about and the trust we have built disappears.”
Another caucus member who did not want to be identified said their office has received dozens of calls and e-mails from frustrated conservative voters rethinking their support for Ford.
“On one hand we are trying to save lives,” said the MPP.
“On the other hand, it’s frustrating that decisions are being made without caucus input only to be reversed again without caucus input. The decisions are just presented to us in their final form with no opportunity to make changes based on the feedback we are getting from our constituents.”
They added, “We do not know if the decisions being made in cabinet are based on politics or science, especially with the recent reversal of the playground decision and the policing powers decision.”
A party insider who did not want to be identified told Global News Monday, “The rebuke of the government on Friday and Saturday was unprecedented. The fact that they reversed course as quickly as they did shows they have an opportunity to correct course. Whether that will restore faith in this government remains to be seen.”
Another party source said, “What the premier needs to do immediately is recalibrate who he’s getting advice from lately and not be afraid of making bold decisions. He’s got to shake the dead weight around him.”
“The election is more than a year away, and a year can be a lifetime politics,” the source added.