The vaccine is on the horizon but the time to act is now.
By Wayne Gates
As many of you know, I believe there are times when the Government and the Opposition can and must work closely together and times when we must raise our voice loudly against policy failures. In the early days of this pandemic I stood with our Government as we scrambled to address this new and invisible virus. However, now that we see the light at the end of the tunnel our entire community should be concerned about Premier Ford’s lack of action.
Our medical professionals tell us that everyone who would like a vaccine should be able to receive one as early as July, but in Ontario you can’t be sure. That’s because despite having months to plan for the vaccines arrival, the Ford Government has still not provided a plan as to when Niagara will receive it. We know that front-line workers in hot spots will be the first to receive it and this makes sense, but how can the Premier provide no information to the rest of the province? Our long-term care homes have been ground-zero for the crisis in Niagara and staff simply cannot be told to wait and see when they will get this vaccine. To make matters worse, the Ford Government further slowed progress when they stopped vaccinations for two days during the Christmas break despite offers from the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario to help administer these vaccines.
Beyond that, the Ford Government is still sitting on over 9 billion dollars earmarked for the COVID-19 recovery. This is COVID relief funding sitting unused in the provincial coffers. If that funding is waiting for a ‘rainy day’, what day is rainier than today? We have local businesses that are on the brink of closing after going weeks without any assistance from the government. We know the vaccine is coming, it stands to reason that the funds must be deployed now to keep these businesses out of foreclosure and debt. Why are these businesses left to face this without support when funds are there and the end of this crisis is so near?
Right now schools are also on break, we could also use these funds to reset our education plans and provide for smaller classes, more PPE and proper ventilation in schools. Given there 976 cases of COVID-19 in Ontario schools, this would be an investment in our children’s education and our community’s health.
Niagara’s healthcare system is stretched too thinly to withstand a further onslaught of COVID-19 without support. Business owners are running out of time. We see the light at the end of the tunnel and now is the time for policies that will ensure we get there with as little damage as possible and there is no reason to delay.