Too little too late: How does one say Merry Christmas after stealing it from you?

“Speaking with reporters during a regular briefing at city hall on Wednesday, [Toronto] Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said that the recent increase in cases is a “concern” but is not altogether surprising in the context of the broader reopening of the economy.” (Chris Fox,, August 26, 2020)

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 14th, 2020



When I mention New Zealand’s success in eliminating COVID I am immediately lectured about it being a little island in the Pacific with a relatively small population. Canada may border the USA but we enacted essentially the same border restrictions as New Zealand. And as for being small, New Zealand’s population density is almost four times that of Canada and greater than Ontario’s.


Did Ontario miss a chance to do what New Zealand did. No one over there has to wear a mask.

Today New Zealand and its sister island in the Pacific, Australia, have eliminated COVID almost entirely. That means no transmission and no more deaths. In New Zealand it also means that masks are not required, even for public transit. Anyone can go to movies, concerts, bars and restaurants as if the pandemic never happened. And perhaps most importantly, they will get to enjoy having their loved ones around them at this special time of year.

Their success, according to the respected British public health journal ‘The Lancet’ lies in having a clear pandemic plan with a target of zero COVID infections. Quarantine requirements are strict and community spread has been eliminated. In the event of an imported infection they quickly and effectively test and trace and isolate. And were an infection to start to spread they are not afraid to undertake a complete lock down until it’s over. And significantly the government’s communication is clear and consistent.

Canada is a federation with shared responsibility for public health and the provinces have insisted on taking the lead in dealing with COVID. But one look at the extent and growing number of infections and deaths and it is clear they have messed up. New Zealand’s prime minister has offered advice to US president-elect Biden as he prepares to tackle COVID as his number one priority. Apparently our provincial premiers could use some as well.

flatening the curve

Ontario chose to flatten the curve. was that the best decision?

And the place to start would be our pandemic target, which was never zero transmission, let alone zero infection. Our pandemic policy is primarily focused on flattening the curve. We are willing to accommodates some level of the virus transmission providing the death rate isn’t too high and hospitals aren’t too full. That means that we will continue to experience these on-again and off-again quasi-lockdowns until, we all hope, the vaccine can give us ‘herd immunity’ so that the virus will disappear.

The problem is that hundreds of thousands more Canadians may get the infection in the interim; an unknown number will be afflicted with long term after effects; and hundreds, if not thousands, more will die. And the danger of hosting all of that virus in our community is that it might mutate to a more deadly form, as the 1918 Spanish Flu did, and possibly negate the effectiveness of our vaccines.

Doug Ford covid t shirt

This is not a happy man.

A glance at any Canadian newspaper will tell you how badly our provincial leaders and their chief medical people have failed us. Still they are not prepared to tolerate criticism, regardless how constructive. Alberta’s Kenny, with the worst infection rate in the country, and COVID soon to be the leading cause of death, calls it ‘Alberta bashing’, even when fellow Albertan’s complain. And Doug Ford labels his critics ‘arm chair quarterbacks’ even though they include some of the real-time front-line disease experts in the province.

Dr. Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer, dispassionately admits an average of 25 deaths a day in this province, a number which will be increasing as the virus skyrockets from just below 2000 per day to as many as 5000 per day. Hospitals and their ICUs are nearing capacity and surgeries are already being postponed. And Christmas has been effectively cancelled in the province. By any measure of public health this is a disaster.

As we get ready to roll up our sleeves here for a vaccine, which may not even last till the end of the pandemic, we find that New Zealand is in no hurry to vaccinate its population – they don’t need to.

From the beginning of the pandemic that country has lost 25 people to COVID, that is how many people die every day here in Ontario. Between now and Christmas there will be almost 200 fewer of us to see the holiday in this year.

For some bizarre reason Mr. Ford has been able to maintain his popularity despite such a miserable record. Though there won’t be much to celebrate for the rest of us this year, even as Zoom let’s us virtually speak to the family who won’t really be with us. And for the most vulnerable and/or those living alone this will be the worst Christmas ever. Hey, the truth is we’re all to blame for letting this outbreak get so bad, but Mr. Ford is supposed to be guiding us – he says he is there for all of us.

For now it is a soft lockdown for Burlington – the purgatory of the red zone, replete with its dozens of rules which seem to get changed every day as if just to confuse us. But still it’s too little and way too late. Somebody was sleeping at the switch again before this train of disease really got rolling. Now, what a mess! It’s little wonder that Ford is too embarrassed to even attend his daily COVID briefings anymore. Besides, how does one say Merry Christmas after stealing it from you?

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:

Opening Up Too Soon –    New Zealand –     Kenny Alberta Bashing

Ontario Lockdowns –     Ontario Deaths

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10 comments to Too little too late: How does one say Merry Christmas after stealing it from you?

  • Carol Victor

    Disgusting what is happening with the Conservation Authority….we must fight this..developers are winning AGAIN!

  • While it certainly does appear your government bumbled through, and perhaps acted unethically if not criminally while in pursuit of other goals, you might take some heart in knowing that the Trump administration, in a rabid policy of erasing Obama from history, threw out the hundreds of page Pandemic Preparedness Plan left for them, along with defunding the entire apparatus dedicated to studying such eventualities. While portraying the virus as a Democratic hoax intended to destabilize the Trump administration they furiously pursued their efforts to eliminate democracy in all but myth.

    Of course, saying, “We weren’t as bad as those guys” is small comfort and no excuse for one’s own actions, at least it offers a chance to move forward positively. South of the border, that movement will be exponentially more difficult.

  • perryb

    Of course it is true that places like NZ are different, and it is true that in our federation the provinces operate on the basis of demanding money from the feds, but don’t you dare tell us what to do with it! One point that is missed, though, is that we increasingly elect people who are politicians first, and having any brains or common sense is an afterthought at best. What do we expect of a guy who had an average record running a label business, got elected on a platform to defund education and health and conservation infrastructure, delivered buck-a-beer for a while, launched unreadable license plates, used his power to get even with Toronto and other cities, and in general is a nice guy? But he is way, way, over his head when, unexpectedly, leadership and assessment of facts and reasoned decision making is required. Daily press briefings can only hide the truth for so long. Which also exposes the weakness of his backup team, who were assembled to serve a different purpose.

    • Phillip Wooster

      Perry, you’re right about the politicians. And while running a labelling company is not much of a resume for running the province, it’s not as bad as being a part-time drama teacher and snowboard instructor for running the country. I almost forgot–we got a journalist for a finance minister and a graphic designer for health minister–what could go wrong?

  • g.fraser

    “Besides, how does one say Merry Christmas after stealing it from you”

    Again, the blame game. Yes, Canada is a Federation with shared health care responsibilities btw the Federal Gov’t and the Provinces. The Federal Gov’t is responsible for setting and administering national standards for the health care system through the Canada Health Act and to provide the funding support for provincial and territorial health care services. The Provinces’ role is to implement the delivery for health care services based on the Canada Health Act.

    I agree that some Provinces (Especially Albert) have taken a very Trumpist disregard to common sense healthcare with disastrous affects BUT to blame this all on the Provinces is Ludicrous as usual. There are Liberal led provinces/Territory, PC provinces, ND province and two other parties running Provinces.

    Some Provinces have disperse populations, some have massive Canadian cites, some Indigenous communities are isolated like islands which can be beneficial until Covid hits. Ontario has many multigenerational communities where families are living together which is wonderful and cultural but can be an issue with contagions.

    Why are New Zealand, Taiwana, Vietnam and Australia in a better position than Canada; they had Prime Ministers & Presidents with foresight & Leadership. Decisions were based on Common Sense not just on WHO’s recommendations. These countries assumed a virulent strain as they still had Healthcare representatives in China, unlike Canada that removed their counterparts under JT’s Liberals. WHO’s lack of objective insight and adamant belief in China’s subjective reporting was a disservice to the world.

    These countries imposed very early flight regulations from Asia and quarantined passengers (foreign and citizens) immediately unlike Canada. International tourists & Canadians were asked to self-quarantine as they disembark without masks.

    These countries had PPEs stockpiles that were valid & up to date unlike Canada’s Federal reserve. These countries had role models from Day 1 unlike Canada that waited for the WHO to guide their decisions.

    Did many Provinces make mistakes……Yes. Did we open too early……Definitely. Did we learn from those other countries…….Nope. Did we mimic their school delivery system…….gotta be kidding we tried to reinvent the wheel. Were we guided by the Healthcare Act of Canada……NOT AT ALL.

    SARs taught them nothing and the book by Dr. Tham should have been bedside reading for them all including Dr. Tham.

    Even today as I do rounds in Retirement homes I am sometimes asked to remove my own new NP-95 mask and wear a filter mask as that is their policy. Common sense……I think not, but then again, many levels of govt & it appears all parties in power lack this basic commodity.


    PS: stay safe, be careful, be thankful for what we have, try to find a smile/laugh everyday & look after each other.


    I agree Marshall. We are adults and should be able to follow the rules!! Premier Ford has done a good job and should not need to babysit us.
    People who go to Premier Ford’s home to protest should be ashamed of themselves. How would they like to be responsible for so many who will not be responsible for themselves. It is up to all of us to do what is right. We are grown up,,right???

  • Carol Victor

    It’s hard to buy into a confusing message especially when the premier doesn’t take his own advice.

  • Fred

    Doug Ford has done a terrible job, he acted too lated to restrict psw’s to one home (weeks behind BC), which caused needless deaths. He failed to ramp up testing over the summer, he failed to stay on top of contract tracing. Influenced by lobbyists he screwed over nursing homes. He failed to create an equal playing field for small business while letting large American companies to stay open. Kenny has done even worse, allowing is ideology to get in the way of public health and only reacting now after the virus is out of control in Alberta. The only way these two can be seen as competent is if you compare them to the shit show south of the border.

  • Marshall

    Nothing either Premier Ford or the mayors of Brampton or Toronto could say or try to enforce would change the behaviour of the inhabitants of their respective cities as their cases rise. To brand them as failures is incorrect. The people of New Zealand bought into the battle against covid-19. The people of Brampton and Toronto have not.

    • perryb

      Don’t forget that Mr. Ford has successfully used the pandemic as cover for a stealthy attack on the environment, conservation, empowering developers and other friends, and emasculating municipal governments. His faithful MPPs, while staying underground as far as pandemic response is concerned, have been busy supporting this destruction agenda.