Ontario used to think of itself as the crown jewel of the Canadian provinces. But, this week, Newfoundland and Labrador -- who Ontarians used to think was Canada's neediest province -- sent in a medical team to help Ontario in its fight against COVID. Among them was Dr. Allison Furey, the wife of premier Andrew Furey who -- like his wife -- is a doctor. Susan Delacourt writes:
The pandemic has officially turned the rules of Canada’s federation upside-down — Ontario is now a have-not province in COVID-19’s brutal third wave.
This is a notable development in the short and long lens of history. In the immediate term, it means that Ontario’s stay-at-home orders have now escalated to the level of a national emergency in the province. In the larger picture, Ontario finds itself in the not-so-traditional place as a taker, not a giver, of aid in this country.
This moment has looked inevitable for at least a couple of weeks now, as the province continued to post record high COVID case counts and surges of patients into acute and intensive care units of beleaguered hospitals.
And, as Ontario's crisis deepened, Doug Ford started pointing fingers:
Friends don’t keep score in tough times, but politicians do, and it might be a bit of a stretch to describe relations between Ontario and Ottawa as “friendly” in this stage of the pandemic.
A year ago, when Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Ford were having nightly “therapy” calls, it looked like a real, enduring friendship was blooming. But over the weekend, Freeland said in a Sunday CBC interview she hadn’t chatted to Ford recently. She had instead passed along her best wishes in a budget-related call with Ford’s finance minister.
The Ontario premier hinted a few weeks ago in a press conference that he had taken some guff from other first ministers about how often he complimented the feds through the pandemic. Perhaps it was that peer pressure, or his own declining poll numbers — or maybe the relentlessly descending situation in Ontario — but the shout-outs to the federal Liberals have definitely been fewer and far between.
When asked repeatedly about whether he would ask Ottawa for help, the premier more or less said that all he needed was more vaccine, which was Ottawa’s job. Oh, and stricter lockdowns at the border; also Ottawa’s job.
In Ottawa, meanwhile, Trudeau and his team would say they were standing by, giving Ontario what it wanted, but insisting that vaccine rollout and running the health-care system is a provincial job.
The difference here from the first wave is that political blame is now a rolling force in 2021; something politicians are trying their hardest to avoid or deflect.
The times and the tune have changed.
Image: The Toronto Star