Are We Waiting for a Miracle because we aren't very good at common sense ?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 30th, 2020



Premier Ford started an online petition to persuade the federal government to enhance border control, presumably to tighten quarantine and restrict flights from COVID hotspots. It may be a little unorthodox for a province to start a public petition, but he must have felt it was necessary.

Our federal government has a less than stellar history when it comes to border control. Failure to act earlier by closing the border and enforcing quarantine was responsible for bringing the virus into our communities in the first place.

But today most of the infection comes via community transmission. Alberta has a pilot program in place to either test or quarantine arriving passengers at its airports. Their records show that less than 2% of all arrivals are testing as positive. Of course, if all arrivals properly quarantined none of this should be a problem. But we know people cheat, even in New Zealand and Australia where the military confines arriving passengers into mandatory quarantine in dedicated hotels.

So bravo Mr. Ford. But before Ford goes all ballistic and accuses the federal government of sloppy border control, he should look in his own backyard. Ontario’s winter surge of COVID cases is almost entirely the result of half-hearted provincial policies. Having declared victory too early, last summer, Ford’s administration has now allowed the virus to spread even further into workplaces, grocery stores and gradually into schools.

Ford OPEN for business

That lifting of the lock-down in March was probably not the Premier’s best decision.

Ford’s enthusiasm in reopening the economy, pretending Ontario was back to some kind of near-normal was folly. Opening bars and restaurants, gyms and churches and expanding the allowed size of private gatherings have all contributed to the degree of sickness we now find.

The mixed messages and ever changing rules of the government’s COVID public health restrictions were proof that the authorities had no plan, were making it up on the run or just muddling through. And then there is the unfortunate hypocrisy, as for example, when one of the government’s senior ministers holidays in the Caribbean while the Premier lectures the rest of us to stay at home.

If Ford actually had a plan it would be ‘waiting for a miracle’ – the vaccine. And even with that his people have fumbled at getting it out of the starting gate. Ontario has the lowest rate of inoculations among all provinces. And stopping inoculations over the holiday period, as if waiting for Santa to return to the North Pole, has not helped the government’s credibility. Not that COVID ever takes a break!

Ford’s effort to restart the economy too early has set this province back, rather than move us ahead. It has turned out to be a short term gain for a much longer and more severe pain. He is fortunate that the federal government has been shouldering the vast majority of the costs of this pandemic. But we know there is only one taxpayer in this federation at the end of the day.

Sadly there is some question as to whether the vaccines will even stop the epidemic or just keep us from getting sick. A scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO) has speculated that the virus may continue unabated to spread and mutate, perhaps to a variant which can evade the vaccine we’ve just taken and/or become even more deadly as happened with the Spanish Flu.

Halton has a very good student immunization rate - 93% of students are immunized.

The Teddy Bear makes it all bearable.

While we are waiting for our jab in the arm, shouldn’t our biggest effort be to eliminate the virus to (near) zero, the hard and proven way, as New Zealand and even China have done?

The truth is we really don’t know what these vaccines will accomplish, for how long they will protect and even whether there will be longer term undesirable consequences for those immunized. But assuming they do work as hoped, at current roll-out rates it may take close to a year to immunize enough people to allow us to safely get back to some kind of normal. By contrast New Zealand eliminated its viral contagion in seven weeks with an extensive and enforced stay-at-home lock down.

Mr. Ford’s current partial lockdown for 28 days, given the extent of infection transmission, particularly in the workplace, is not likely going to be enough. All of these half-hearted solutions have only led to COVID fatigue and rule breaking and ultimately to some kind of mental health crisis. And the task is not hopeless. Atlantic Canada has shown how it is possible to manage a contagion while the rest of the provinces have floundered.

In hindsight perhaps controlling this epidemic was too big a job to be left in the hands of the provincial governments and their health authorities. Perhaps the Prime Minister should have enacted the Emergency Act as he had offered to do at the outset of the crisis. After all, the feds are picking up the tab while we lock down and they could hardly have done a worse job with the miserable series of lock-downs. But then Mr. Ford might reasonably point out that the feds needed to have got their own house in order first – and he’d point to border control.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes from time to time about whatever is on his mind.  A former sheep farmer he has served as a federal bureaucrat for 25 years, ran for public office and lost. He was the founder of the first sustainability public interest group in Burlington.


Background links:

Ford’s Petition –   Ontario Vaccinations –   Acting Early

Ontario Mess –    Not Prepared –   Ontario Minister Holiday

WHO Scientist Doubts –    Alberta Airport Arrivals

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18 comments to Are We Waiting for a Miracle because we aren’t very good at common sense ?

  • Penny Hersh


    A leader cannot please all the people all of the time. I felt that our mayor used the directive from the hospital to the province for more restrictions as a way out after she had signed on with other mayors in the region to prevent lockdowns.

    By doing this she was able to appease the small business owners and restauranteurs and the residents who had disagreed with politicians becoming involved in health issues.

    Sometimes it would be nice for a politician to say they made a mistake.

  • g.fraser

    The lack of common sense is to be blamed on ALL levels of Gov’t; Regional, Provincial and Federal.

    The Federal Gov’t early lackadaisical response and subservient belief in the WHO propaganda was disastrous for Canada and played out as a role model for Provinces not to over react.

    CBC News: “Government documents reveal a slow start to Canada’s COVID-19 response”

    • David Barker

      It seems you and too may others are over eager to point the finger of blame. Is blame really attributable anywhere. What if the federal govt had acted more swiftly back in the spring? Would we be in any better off? I doubt it. The Feds acted very swiftly to block flights from the UK when the new strain was detected. However, it was already here ? Maybe some will think the feds should have anticipated it (sarcasm). What happened or did not happen in the spring is ancient and irrelevant history as to their impact now in dealing with the second wave.

      • g.fraser

        Not ancient history at all. We did not learn from SARs and we should have. If you don’t learn from history you are bound to repeat it, and we did just that! You may “doubt it”, but we would have been better off in all regards. Just look at the numerous countries in the world that reacted much earlier to the crisis than Canada and how well they are doing relative to Canada.

        If you read my first sentence, I indicated that all levels of Gov’t are to blame. Mr. Rivers continuously points the finger at any Gov’t that is not Liberal. I stated, it was not just one level of Gov’t or party that is to blame.

        So, Mr. Barker, what happened in the spring is NOT ancient & irrelevant history. Lives are NOT irrelevant. It was a learning experience that was not appreciated, creating a predictable second COVID wave that is much worse than it should have been. This should NOT be about Gov’t parties and their infighting over political power. It is about Canadians. That is what the Gov’t parties have forgotten. They were elected into office by Canadians for Canadians, NOT for their own personal power or that of their party affiliations.


        • David Barker

          Please would you list the “numerous countries” doing better than Canada. Certainly not the USA, or UK, or the 27 EU members. S Korea has a bad outbreak again. I’d be most interested to know which countries are on your list.

          You will note the Ontario lockdown in the spring was a much tighter one than is in place now. Half measures will not get the job done.feds and Provinces need to lockdown completely for 4 weeks.

          In your view what should the feds or Provinces done to curtail the second wave, bearing in mind the second wave is not exclusive to Canada.

          • g.fraser

            Australia, Barbados, Fiji, Brunei, Cambodia, Dominica, Iceland, Mauritious, Monaco, Mongolia, Samoa, Sudan, Vietnam to name a few. Oh, and let’s not forget New Zealand and Taiwan.

            My Opinion:
            1) Federal Gov’t should have ensure PPE stockpile was current, supply chain intact and not outdated
            2) Canada should have curtailed international flight and enforced documented quarantines by mid-late February
            3) Federal Gov’t should have been proactive in setting up the Vaccine Supply Chain instead of waiting to early December & giving formal orders to CAF for distribution
            4) All Retirement homes staff/visitors must have mandated N95 masks to be worn. One of the worst is the Revera Co., owned by a Federal Crown corporation (PSP).
            5) Canadians over age 65yo or younger with co-morbidities should have received N95 masks x14 to recycle daily and to be worn at all times when outside of their residence. Filter masks for everyone else, no exceptions.
            6) School boards should have looked at other countries & mimicked their successes while reviewing their failures.
            7) Ontario should have stayed at a level 2 opening especially with winter coming. Open up more patio/parking lots for outdoor services & outdoor Gyms. More pedestrian walkways with closure of streets. Keep the economy at least surviving.
            8) Huge credit to JBH for their foresight with the tent. I hope it is not needed.
            9) Increase the availability of Mental Health professionals
            10) and I’m sure a multitude of other recommendations that smarter individuals than I have made

            Remember, the Canada Health Act (CHA) sets out criteria, standard of care & conditions that Provinces/Territories have to meet. This is top down driven. The Federal purchasing of multiple pharmaceutical vaccines shows intelligence.

            In February President Donald Trump told journalist Bob Woodward, he was informed about the dangers of this Virus. Canadians share security information with the USA. When did our Federal Gov’t know the truth? Just asking??

            The second wave was inevitable. This was well known but the degree of this wave could have been significantly suppressed and that means lives saved, families safe, businesses surviving and mental wellness reduced.

            No one has a crystal ball but it appears Common Sense is a rare commoditiy at all levels of Gov’t no matter what their party affiliation. Hopefully, this time, we will learn from the Covid pandemic and NOT revisit these mistakes in future pandemics.

            In April, Trudeau on CTV indicated ‘finger pointing will come later’. I don’t want finger pointing just transparency all the way from the WHO down to the Regional Health Centres in Canada. What did we do wrong, how did we fix those mistakes, what did we do right? That’s how we will succeed & grow. But do I believe this will ever come to fruition…………..


          • g.fraser

            Mr. Barker,

            I guess Mr. P. Parr would not print my reply to your above questions. The countries are numerous and I did give my opinion as you asked.


            Editor’s note: Mr Parr took some earned vacation time. The comment section is not the equivalent of a fast food place.

  • David Barker

    Penny, I was with you all the way until where you started knocking the mayor. You just could not help yourself, could you? Sure she like a whole host of leaders here in Ontario and across the country supported half-arsed policies worrying for and wishing to support small business owners’ livelihoods. But you give her no credit for listening to medical/science experts and publicly change her position. It is rare for a politician to do that. Why do you not knock the mayor of Ottawa, who is still complaining about Ottawa being shutdown?

    No one seems to be questioning the different responses being employed from one province to another as being a contributory factor to the inability to get the virus spread under control. Surely, if Canada had a system of government where the federal government had stronger powers and was, for example, able to impose uniform healthcare policy and decisions across the country, Canada would be in a far better position than it finds itself today. Yes, the federal government could have invoked emergency powers, but just imagine how the provincial governments would have wailed and whined. We have 13 provinces/territories doing different things in a totally uncoordinated manner.

    On matters like healthcare and education there should me national common standards as to level of care and curriculum determined and funded by the federal government, administered & delivered by the provincial governments.

  • William Boyd

    I share your concern about whether the vaccines will stop or, at least, blunt the pandemic. The seemingly tacit faith in vaccine of the part of the many who continue fail to adhere to the by-now well-known low-tech preventive measures may quite unfortunately be our collective undoing.

    For me, I’ll take relief taking a bit of the long-view by looking to the heavens: namely, the meteor showers (e.g.,the Quandrantid which peaks early Saturday morn) and the constellations.

    BB in VA, USA

  • perryb

    Lets not forget that the pandemic continues to provide useful cover for Ford’s real project: to hamstring local government, emasculate environmental protections, dispense favors to friends and developers, etc. This continues to be the real work of his government, which we gave him a mandate to pursue. Possibly explains why a cabinet minister felt he had no reason to hang around and left his staff to dispense fake news, and another thought it would be ok to down tools and suspend vaccinations for a few days. The silence of his caucus speaks volumes.

  • Penny Hersh

    Totally agree with the half-hearted lockdowns in Ontario. The Regional approach was probably one of the most ridiculous. Residents from a lockdown region simply went to the regions that were not in a lockdown to eat in restaurants and shop. Community spread at its best.

    Who in their right mind gives people a 5 day notice of a lockdown, especially at Christmas time. Malls and stores were crowded with people. Is it any wonder that Covid 19 cases are rising dramatically?

    People in Burlington should not forget that our Mayor signed letters asking that our region not be subjected to lockdowns. I happened to see our Mayor being interviewed on the news a few nights ago, where she indicated that while she had not been in favour of regional lockdowns, after speaking to the head of Joseph Brant Hospital she now realized why total regional lockdowns were the only way to go. Did she not realize this on her own?

    Leaders, at some time in their career have to take unfavourable positions. It is not possible to be all things to all people.

  • Terence

    This is just Ford trying to defect the public’s attention to a well-kicked can rather than his failed COVID measures! In my opinion, there was NO way to stop the COVID pandemic from arriving in Canada – its intensity yes but not its eventuality.

    Instead of creating false targets Ford should be more focused on reality – an increasing number of deaths per day an an increasing number of infections. Ford is way out of his depth and incapable of innovative thinking being more concerned to direct the public attention to his comfort zone and away from the real issues that have resulted in an already rampant COVID pandemic.

    I could never understand why a Ford lock down is associated with a time frame rather than a tangible goal. In the case of COVID surely the intent of a lock down is to get the infection rate down to a level that is acceptable and that the pandemic is under AND kept control.

    One GLOBALLY recommend measure is referred to as the “R Number” where “R refers to the effective reproduction number and, basically put, it’s a way of measuring an infectious disease’s capacity to spread”. It is the capacity to spread that is SO important!

    If the public understood that the R Number was a real measure of the effectiveness of the virus then they would surely be more focused on this rather than counting the number of lock down days left which really means nothing with respect to effectiveness.

    Remember, the dreaded Spanish flu that killed more than 50MM people (and arguably 100MM) was NOT eradicated by a vaccine but by imposing and, MORE IMPORTANTLY, aggressively enforcing BASIC behavioral rules – “citizens were encouraged to stay healthy through campaigns promoting, mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, quarantining and isolating of patients, and the closure of schools, public spaces and non-essential businesses—all steps designed to cut off routes for the virus’ spread” – Note, at that time, there were NO box stores and no large Amazon depots – in my view these too should be included in the lock down. It is a problem for us all!

    Another important consideration was that the average age of the dead caused by the Spanish flu was 20 – 30 a far cry from the current average age of the >65 group. When you see the flagrant disregard of the recommended guidelines by a small minority of mostly young to middle-aged ‘party goers’ you can only feel contempt since their selfishness often results in family tragedies.

    If the R Number was the measure rather than the time frame then this could be a published number for all to see which, I believe, would result in far more daily awareness and hence would lead to more policing by the general public and any flagrant abuses of the accepted rules would be less likely to be tolerated.

    Until the COVID vaccination become more widely available (which is far from the case at this time) the R number approach could, and I suspect would, reduce the lock down time frame since it is in EVERYONE’S power and INTEREST to stop the COVID spread and it would also greatly reduce the possibility of a third COVID wave!

  • Denise W.

    My neighbours are away now, in Florida, again. Shouldn’t the borders be closed for real. And require a negative test before coming back? I don’t spy on them, but it hasn’t appeared the quarantined in the past. A lot of people are skirting the spirit of the lockdown, to the detriment of the ones who want to follow the rules so we can get over this with a minimum of harm. Close the borders for recreational travel, and pretend “work travel”.

  • Hans Jacobs

    The really offensive part of the cabinet minister’s trip to St. Bart’s was how well he prepared ahead of time (e.g., videos) to make it appear that he was still home. This guy is too devious to be trusted again and should be dismissed from cabinet.

    And why could Ford not have ordered his MPPs to stay home unless they had his explicit permission to travel?

  • Gary

    I guess you don’t write your headlines. “We are not very good at common sense.” So, I suppose your message is that if only we had a different premier we would suddenly all exercise common sense.

  • Very well done retrospective, with compelling documentation. But I was anxiously reading and looking for a sequence of sound recommendations on which Canada could move forward. I did feel a bit of hopelessness when considering the likelihood of a mutation.

  • Dana

    Ray thanks for another thoughtful column. I wasn’t aware I’m able to comment (never scrolled down far enough before).

    It’s stunning to see the hypocrisy of “leaders” who urge citizens to stay home for holidays, but then travel to vacation spots. And here in the U.S., tomorrow evening there is a $1,000 per plate NYE party at Mar-a-Lago. Thus far 500 guests or so will be attending. What a slap in the face to not only our exhausted healthcare workers, but also to the 1/6 Americans currently existing with food insecurity related to the pandemic.

    More than 3700 Americans died yesterday and I fear those numbers will only increase because of Christmas gatherings.

  • David Barker

    Why has Ford not learned from the success of the Atlantic Provinces’ bubble or the Melbourne Australia bubble or the NZ bubble?

    Stop inter and intra provincial non-essential travel. The virus cannot move if people do not move.

    I agree with you, publisher, all the Ontario Provincial government’s efforts are half-arsed (you said “hearted”). It’s like buying a bucket with holes in it that are invisible to the naked eye because it is cheaper than other buckets. Looks good, but come to fill it with water, the water escapes and it is absolutely of no practical use.