Canada Maybe border restrictions could be tighter — but Ford is in no position to cast stones
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Ontario Premier Doug Ford — previously a— is suddenly very eager to let Ontarians how unhappy he is with how Justin Trudeau's government is handling the pandemic.
Ford's office sent a news release to reporters at Queen's Park on Tuesday to alert them to the fact that the provincial government had sent three "urgent" letters to the federal government calling for stricter border measures to better screen travellers to Ontario for COVID-19.
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Ford's Progressive Conservative party has also nowto criticize the federal government's handling of the border. And it is reportedly planning to use " " to launch attack ads against the Trudeau government's border policies.
The temptation here is to ask how much less diremight be right now had the Ford government put the same kind of energy into addressing — from paid sick leave to contact tracing to stricter workplace protections.
In fairness to Ford, it's reasonable to wonder whether more could be done at international borders to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
But unless or until Ford can claim he's done everything in his own power to curb the pandemic, he'll be standing on very shaky ground when he tries to point the finger elsewhere.
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During a Thursday teleconference call, premiers pressed the prime minister to do more on borders and to step up for provincial sick leave programs.Picking up on some themes he and Quebec Premier Francois Legault laid out in a joint letter they sent to Trudeau last week, Ford pressed the prime minister to do more to shut down international flights from COVID-19 hotspots in India; to close loopholes at Canada’s land borders that allow some travellers to skirt quarantine rules that apply to air travellers; and to bring in new rules that would require domestic air travellers to provide proof of a ‘clean’ COVID-19 test before boarding an aircraft for an interprovincial flight.
The simplest explanation is usually the right one and Ford's media campaign is probably what it appears to be: an attempt by the premier to redirect the blame as the third wave batters his province. After it appeared that Ford had rebuilt his public standing during the pandemic, his.
If Ford's government is unwilling to take any further action of its own to change the situation, it can at least try to convince voters that the third wave isn't its fault.
This isn't the first time federal and provincial leaders have criticized each other, implicitly or explicitly, over the pandemic. It's certainly the first time that any level of government has threatened to use attack ads to do so.
Old habits die hard
As extraordinary as it would be to see attack ads in the midst of a global crisis, it's possible the Ford government simply feels more comfortable when it's fighting with the Trudeau government.
COVID-19: Ford repeats calls for tighter borders; Ontario reports 3,887 new cases; Ottawa's daily count back over 200
Premier Doug Ford repeated calls Friday for the federal government to tighten the country’s borders to keep out virus variants that originated outside Canada. If he had the power, he would close Pearson International airport immediately, the premier said, and limit land border crossing to essential trips. He railed against the phenomenon of people travelling to Canada from the U.S. by flying to northern New York, then hiring a taxi or rent a car to drive to the border before driving or walking across. All travellers entering Canada must quarantine for 14 days whether they arrive by plane or at a land border.
Moments before Ford's first meeting as premier with Trudeau in 2018, the premier's officeblaming the federal government for costs associated with housing asylum seekers who were making refugee claims after crossing the border at Quebec's Roxham Road.
A year later, the Ford governmentand earmarked .
If Ford only wants to pressure the federal government to take further action at the border now, he has other options.
He could hold a news conference every day to draw attention to his concerns, and offer interviews to any regional or national media outlet that would have him. But then, of course, he would be putting himself in a position to be asked questions about his own handling of the pandemic.
He could also insist on using the resources of the provincial government to fill whatever gaps he sees.
Beneath the partisan politics, the federal government's handling of the border is not beyond reproach.
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Federal officials can point to statistics that show only a small percentage of cases have been linked directly to travel and to border measures that include pre-arrival testing, mandatory quarantines and a ban on non-essential travel. In a statement on Tuesday night, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair's office offered to assist the Ontario government if it wished to implement new screening measures for people travelling from other provinces — which falls under provincial jurisdiction.
Ottawa's 'bronze medal' border policy
But Ford is not the only one questioning the federal government's approach.
"I'd say maybe Canada is like a bronze medal standard, possibly," Kelley Lee, the Canada research chair in global health governance at Simon Fraser University,, comparing Canada to "gold" standard approaches in Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Vietnam and Thailand.
"We have a long list of exemptions, we have some loopholes to close, we have quarantine measures that need to be more strictly enforced."
There is a legitimate debate to be had about the border — even if it's also fair to wonder how Canadians would feel about the strict policies adopted by, say, Australia,.
COVID-19: Ford repeats calls for tighter borders
Premier Doug Ford repeated calls Friday for the federal government to tighten the country’s borders to keep out virus variants that originated outside Canada, but Windsor’s business community is asking for an increase in land border business travel. “We’re not asking that restrictions be removed for everyone, but I think there is definitely a need for business people to travel because it’s hurting business big time,” said Rakesh Naidu, president and CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce. “A lot of businesses are not able to continue and offer support for the business they have.
But even if you accept the premise that the Trudeau government could be doing more to keep COVID-19 from getting in, the Ford government can't escape its responsibility to doto deal with the COVID-19 that manages to slip through any cracks.
Bail or blame?
, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto who has criticized both levels of government, describes the relative culpability of Ottawa and Queen's Park by invoking the image of Trudeau and Ford sitting together in a boat. Trudeau, he said, may have drilled a few small holes in the bottom — but Ford is pouring even more water in.
In the Atlantic provinces, he said, the boat has the same two holes, but public health officials are bailing enough to keep the vessel afloat, if not dry.
"The Maritimes are labouring under the same federal government, but have achieved very different outcomes," Furness said via email this week.
It's fair to point out that just one of the Atlantic provinces — New Brunswick — shares a land border with the United States. But the difference in outcomes between the four eastern provinces and the others is glaring. And if Ontario's containment policies were being praised as equally impressive, Ford might be in a position now to claim that the only remaining issue in his province is the border.
As it is, it's hard to imagine anyone in Ontario taking comfort from attack ads about which government is to blame for the death, illness and isolation that is afflicting the province — except maybe for the partisans fighting with each other on Twitter to pass the time in lockdown.
The primary function of government is still to protect its citizens — and the Ford government might ask Ontarians to imagine that attack ads will persuade the Trudeau government to do more to secure the border.
But of all the things the Ford government could be doing right now, launching a political blame-deflecting campaign against another level of government is surely one of the least effective ways to save lives.
Trudeau and Doug Ford continue war of words over border controls, COVID testing for domestic flights .
Ontario Premier Doug Ford criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday over measures involving air and ground travel, calling on the federal government for putting in more stringent measures. He also disagreed with Trudeau's comment made earlier this week of having a