By: Hazar Alsabagh of Sunday Preach in Collaboration with Diverge Media. You can reach Hazar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can we talk about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s announcement of new and stricter COVID-19 rules that took place last Friday, April 16?! I don’t like to get angry – especially during Ramadan when I remind myself constantly to practice patience – but what an absolute circus show this man has displayed in the last 48 hours! He was under fire shortly after the announcement that stricter rules were coming for all Ontario and its residence. For those of you who missed it or are tuning in from around the world, Ford announced:
- He would extend the stay-at-home order to six weeks;
- Lockdown all outdoor and recreational areas; and
- Grant police agencies the right to stop pedestrians and vehicles ARBITRARILY and question their reasons for not staying home. He pretty much reinstated the carding program!
After a public outcry and thousands of thumbs – if not tens of thousands – taking to social media (myself included), Ford came back today with a modified plan. He announced that outdoor spaces could be used (with limitations), gatherings are still banned, and police will not stop people and vehicles at random. Basically, the new plan now is that there is no new plan because nothing’s changed besides extending the stay-at-home order to six weeks.
I mean, most of the time, I’m polite, but I need to call out what an absolute shit show this government has produced! You know when you’re driving up past Georgetown and get a whiff of cow manure because you forgot to close the window as you pass through farmlands? Our government isn’t just a whiff of cow manure; it’s a cow manure tsunami. Some of you are probably thinking, “Hazar. Aren’t you a little dramatic?” OF COURSE, I’M DRAMATIC! Only 48 hours ago, Ford was flirting with the idea of establishing a potential police state! We should have all been dramatic! And we know this because EVEN the POLICE said NO to Doug’s new rules. In my experience, if police agencies across the province stand up to say no to more power, then I know it’s THAT BAD. Excuse the caps; I’m not over being dramatic. This is my moment. Let me have it. CAN YOU IMAGINE IF THE POLICE AGENCIES SAID YES TO THE RULES?! We’d be looking at dangerous levels of civil unrest!
The problems with Ontario right now are too many to count. Still, I’d like to start unpacking this major topic by highlighting two issues we’re facing in Ontario that have set us back so much that even Florida and Manitoba look like great options to move right about now. I’ve narrowed it down to four categories, two of which we’ll discuss next week:
- Reactive vs Proactive
- Accountability (or lack thereof)
- La Resistance vs the Obedient (this will be featured in next week’s preach)
- The cracks & gaps in our policies, infrastructure and social programs (this will be featured in next week’s preach)
Alright, folks, let’s get to work and shovel this shit.
We’re out here chasing chickens
Last week, I had the pleasure of guest appearing on Diverge Media’s Youtube channel. Co-founder of DM, Gregory Staley, asked me what my thoughts were on the lockdown. As someone who has always believed in taking a moment of pause and deep breaths before we do things we may regret, I always said the first lockdown made sense to me with what I knew then. Indeed, many different measures could have been taken, but if “ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas,” so let’s not fret over the past. My point is, during the first lockdown, I did stress to my followers that IF the government were to take this approach, they would have to take this time to be PROACTIVE. Instead, they gave themselves paid time off and sat in their comfortable million-dollar homes (that’s what they’re worth now in the GTA) as everyone else lost their jobs or, worse, died. I’ve always said that if any government entertained a second lockdown, then we’ve automatically failed, and the government would be playing defence with blood on their hands. Fast forward to today, and the trail of blood left by this government and not just from COVID is gut-wrenching.
I called on the government in April 2020 to come up with a plan as the cases started to drop significantly through the spring and summer. I stressed the importance of not becoming complacent and prepared for the worst. It was evident through the cracks of our social and economic system that neither this nor previous provincial governments have planned for emergencies such as this pandemic. Therefore, this calm before the storm we experienced over the summer of 2020 was a critical time that could have been leveraged for planning. That cabinet should have boarded themselves up like a jury until they had a solid emergency plan that would detail what they would do to support our social and economic infrastructure if cases began to rise again. Lockdowns should have never been a go-to consideration. A second, third and x number of lockdown is simply a reflection of poor leadership and poor planning. The only person we can blame here is the premier, Doug Ford, without question.
It’s your fault, and yours and yours and everyone’s but mine
I don’t think I’ve heard Doug Ford take ownership of any of his decisions unless they were good ideas. I’ve witnessed him act like a dictator and turn his MPP colleagues Independent when they provide feedback that is contrary to what he wants to do. I’ve grown to dislike the political party model because the Kool-Aid apparently goes down like acid on jeans (let’s not bring those back, ever). Ford has not once stood at the podium and said, “Folks. As your leader, I dropped the ball, and for that, I am sorry. But I will endeavour to make things right starting with [insert the first step here]…” Why wouldn’t he? Even former President Trump’s apologized at a presidential debate once for the lives lost due to COVID-19! And we all know Prime Minister Trudeau has “sorry” on speed dial at the tip of his tongue. The point is that there’s no shame in apologizing and committing to the people you vowed to protect, serve and support. Yes, overdoing it can discredit the apology; however, Ford has yet to apologize once. Not even for those terrible license plates! Instead, Ford prefers to pass the blame to anyone but him. He’s blamed the youth, his own supporters – the right-wing – the middle class, the frontline workers, small businesses, restaurants, and anyone else that isn’t him.
Just like at work, when your leader/boss/manager blames you instead of taking accountability for the team, the lack of vision, lack of direction, and lack of support, you begin to resent them. Nothing is enough, you have no idea what more they want from you, and you’re unable to keep up with their demands without the proper tools and support. This resentment grows with time, and eventually, you don’t care anymore. This is how most people are feeling right now. You have a team – the people – who are looking to Ford for support, tools and resources, and he’s looking down at everyone and blaming them for his failed government. For the most part, Ontario residents have proven since the start of the pandemic that they are reasonably adaptable; businesses have gone above and beyond to ensure they follow the guidelines. Individuals are taking responsibility for their health and practising social distancing. Yet it’s still their fault somehow. A true leader would recognize that this would mean a piece of the puzzle is missing and not that their people aren’t doing enough to stay safe. We can only do so much as a people before we start to hurt mentally and emotionally!
What does this mean for Ontarians?
I don’t even need to think about this: the consensus in Ontario is that we are fed up. We are tired of the government’s teeter-totter approach to the pandemic, fed up with the lack of support to our frontline workers, fed up with the terrible leadership ignoring all professional suggestions and colleague feedback. However, it’s important to note that everyone came to this feeling for different reasons, which we’ll get to next week. As I said, there are many reasons why the last year has been an utter failure. The only two things the government succeeded in doing within the last year – if you can call it successful – were:
- To expose just how divided, spiteful, resentful, intolerant, and inconsiderate we are to one another when we need each other the most, and
- How broken our economic and health system is.
Today, I highlighted the lack of accountability and proactivity of our government which led to losing control of an emergency that other nations worldwide have proven could be managed. So far, Ford’s plan has been to “crackdown,” “lockdown,” and “pindown.” Suffocating people who are, for the most part, compliant is only going to create resistance, further increasing the risk of civil unrest. We bore witness to that in Montreal last weekend when fiery riots arose in Old Port Montreal. Being a great leader requires trusting the people you’re leading. If lockdowns and stricter rules aren’t working, perhaps reversing the strategy and choosing to trust your people may yield better results. It seems to be the case in Texas, USA, after all. Why not try positive reinforcement and give back to the community by loosening outdoor restrictions and patios. A leader who trusts their people will have his people trust in them.