Rivers calls the Provincial Budget An Exercise in Creative Writing

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 10th, 2020



The Ontario government released its latest budget last week, though you might have missed it given all the attention in the media about the US election. And you’d be excused for not reading it, given that it’s such a voluminous manuscript. Though if you like fiction there was a good amount of unashamedly creative writing about how quickly and effectively the Ford government sprang into action to tackle the coronavirus last spring.

Extendicare HAlton Hills

The Extendicare facility in HAlton Hills has received numerous notices from the government – but has been allowed to remain operational.

But there were no apologies for how poorly the province actually responded to the crisis in long term care (LTC) homes, in failing to stock adequate supplies of PPE (personal protection equipment) or how it is failing to protect all the students being sent into crowded classrooms this year. And there was no thanks given to the federal government for having to send in the army to save our LTC residents. And let’s not forget the federal cash subsidies which have kept us afloat.

Nov prov budget

Provincial budget being presented in the Legislature.

There are a lot of numbers which add up to give us Ontario’s largest deficit ever. Big business gets another huge break on electricity thanks to the taxpayers. And there is something novel, a staycation, to encourage people to travel around the province in 2021. How can that make sense when Mr. Ford keeps telling us to stay home, rather than go about spreading the virus?

So that may be great news if you own and rent out your lakefront cottage. For renters, if you can afford the two or three thousand for a week, you’ll be entitled to 20% of the rental price back with your income taxes. Rent is a consumable why not just drop the PST? And why provide an incentive at all, given that cottage rentals sold out like hot cakes last year in the midst of the pandemic?

Back to the US election, America’s four year bad dream is finally coming to an end as Joe Biden prepares to replace Donald Trump as America’s next commander-in-chief But the nightmare continues, at least for the majority of Americans who voted to change the channel. They are tired of watching the COVID death toll continue to rise coincident with ever increasing infection rates, and no end in sight despite vague optimistic promises from Trump about a vaccine supposedly just around the corner.

virus testing

Testing and tracing to control the spread of the virus can’t effectively be done at this stage of the contagion, even in most of Canada.

One can only hope that the pandemic can bring Americans together in more ways than it has divided them. Still with over 100,000 new cases a day and an exponential contagion which can accelerate by a factor of two or three, that will require hard medicine. Testing and tracing to control the spread of the virus can’t effectively be done at this stage of the contagion, even in most of Canada.

Hard medicine is what China and New Zealand and some other nations used to virtually eliminate their viral transmission. It’s called a lockdown. Keeping people from spreading the virus to each other worked because the contagion’s preferred transmission route is close personal contact and hanging out in closed areas where the viral load can concentrate.

The lockdown also was working for a while in Canada and even the USA. New York, once the hardest hit with graphic images of bodies being stored in refrigeration trucks, got the contagion under control and flattened the curve of infections. And so did Ontario and Alberta and even Quebec.

cafe crowd - no six feet here

Convincing people to stay at home just isn’t working.

But then we got impatient. Lobbied by those who had been shut down, our leaders bowed to the bar, restaurant and gym owners’ demands. And to appear even-handed the advisories allowed larger public gatherings – weddings, funerals and church services. So the epidemic naturally came back with a vengeance. Call it a second wave, it is really just a revival of the contagion our leaders did not allow to die off the first time.

There is no question that Ontario’s hospitality and entertainment industries have been hurt. But collectively they make up about 3% of the provincial GDP – 6% if we generously count the upstream and downstream economy. If the choice is between keeping the gyms and bars closed or filling the emergency rooms and morgues which should we choose?

Our numbers have yet to reach the levels we see in the USA, but wait for it. On Sunday Ontario reported over 1300 new cases. There have been 150 outbreaks in long-term care homes, nearly 1000 cases per day (7 day average) and the largest number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day. And Doug Ford has just loosened restrictions to the delight of the virus. Once our numbers parallel those in the USA does keeping the border closed even make sense?

So who is advising the Premier on this calamitous policy. He claims he is listening to his scientists. But they must not be talking to the medical experts on the front line like Dr. Irfan Dhalla, vice-president of physician quality at Unity Health in Toronto, who is also an associate professor at the University of Toronto and sits on provincial and federal committees related to the COVID-19 response. “It wouldn’t take much to put us on a path towards the kinds of outcomes we’re seeing in Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, many American states.”

Nov 9 COVID numbers ON

If this graph isn’t evidence enough – then we are in for a very hard winter.

It sure looks like all that pain we went through getting that curve flattened last spring was for nothing. Deja vu, again. And while it is up to all of us – we’re all in this together – we do expect leadership to navigate us all to safety. But at least we’ll get a tax break when we rent that summer cottage next year.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

 Background links:

Ontario Budget –    More Budget –   Even More

Biggest Mistake –   Ford –     Virus Spread

Cottages –    School Infections

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4 comments to Rivers calls the Provincial Budget An Exercise in Creative Writing

  • g.fraser

    Ray, I was starting to miss you myopic view point.

    “But there were no apologies for how poorly the province actually responded to the crisis in long term care (LTC) homes, in failing to stock adequate supplies of PPE (personal protection equipment) or how it is failing to protect all the students being sent into crowded classrooms this year”.

    Ray, why don’t you tell the public who owns the company ‘Revera’ which is one of the largest operators of seniors’ residences and LTC homes in Canada. This company has currently some of the highest Covid out breaks in their facilities across Canada.

    Vera is wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP), a federal Crown corporation charged with investing funds for the pension plans of the federal public service, the Canadian Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Reserve Force.

    Hopefully I have opened your eyes alittle.


  • Ray, We agree with the position you are coming from. In Ontario the MOH has the authority to do what ever is necessary. In Halton the MOH began to raise the issues we were not doing enough and Meed Ward went whining to the Premier.and the MOH backed off. Halton figures are worse than Hamilton. Hamilton is closing rogue homes down and more.. Our city looks the other way and won’t enforce the Emergency Measures at Spencer Smith re cyclists dismount never mind the more difficult issues. Instead hold closed meetings, keeps the lectern closed and axks the Premier to change the rules so we can keep tent patios. We are saying the same thing Ray we just are holding different people responsible. Our Health Board hasn’t held a single minuted meeting since Carr came on board. Check out for yourself the hundreds of minuted meetings Hamilton has online. Our MOH reports to the Health Board and unfortunately our MOH does not seem to be able to stand up to Meed Ward at al.and that affects the Health and well-being of us all. We continue to self isolate missed our first sun rise service and Cenotaph in decades respecting the vets position of stay home but saw Brant Street on CHCH that seems to indicate others didn’t

  • Ray Rivers

    Thanks for your comments Anne and David and for the work you are doing to help keep us safe. I’m a resident of Ontario who is impacted by provincial policies, just like you. Just look at the numbers – we are headed in the wrong direction. I’d argue to start by closing all bars and other places people congregate unless we can be absolutely sure there is no transmission. House parties should be banned. We cannot out-nuance the virus.

  • Do you live in a different Ontario than we do Ray? Or are you the “armchair coach” the Premier often refers to. Anne in particular worked with the Infection Control Committee and was an integral part of the hospital wide audit process gurus at an internationally respected hospital. She has had the privilege of addressing an international conference and having her Halton healthcare audit set out in “60 years after the sacrifices” and “You Decide Who Decides Yeah Right!” selected as part of the conference’s education tool. There are few of Ford’s daily reviews we have missed. He has repeatedly thanked the Federal Govt and all other stakeholders for how they have helped and particularly the military for their assistance and their report. In fact it gets to the point of overkill. He has listened and has promised justice and protection for the LTC’s. He has addressed previous governments failures to heed the SAARS warning by having Ontario becoming the source of PPE etc. and never again become the victim of another country’s poor standards and leaving us in the lurch.

    He has listened to those like ourselves who pestered him until he introduced the Essential Caregiver Teams that mean family’s do not lose their eyes and ears in the congregant care centres to help end decades of LTC abuses. put a stop to ongoing abuses (the justice for this well documented abuse and changes in healthcare ovesrsight such as College of Nurses, College of :Physicians and Surgeons, Accreditatin process that all cost us tons of money but have not made any difference in the abysmal healthcare issues and preventable deaths statistics for seniors and those with disabilities etc. If your ears were as close to the health care train track as ours are you would know these matters will be addressed. Ford has repeatedly warned Halton they are under observation and yet we are hearing nothing from our Health Board Team Chaired by Carr or Mayor of Burlington with regard to what the explanation is for the exponential increase in Halton’s numbers. Hamilton Mayor and MOH are always speaking out and equating the rising numbers with issues needing to be addressed. Not so Burlington and Halton despite having higher than average 7 day numbers than Hamilton and that city having much worse demographics than Halton in terms of where you expect the spread. We believe Halton is on its way to seeing red (i.e. the red zone) but you would not think so related to the silence coming from City Hall and the Region in terms of WHY AND WHAT WE NEED TO DO TO STOP THE SPREAD? Perhaps you can help them out with why you think this is happening given your critique of Premier Ford’s performance. Stay safe, keep well Ray.