Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

It’s not a known side effect of COVID-19, but when the pandemic hit, Ontario Premier Doug Ford abruptly transformed into Canada’s most empathetic politician.

Mention Kathleen Wynne, former Liberal premier and former lead conservative bogeywoman, and Mr. Ford will praise her decency. Federal Liberal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland? His best friend. Teachers? He can’t say enough about what an outstanding job they’re doing. Asked Wednesday why he’s declined the request of Toronto’s top doctor to shut down indoor dining, he pivoted to praising Dr. Eileen de Villa for being smart, dedicated and “a really good person – she really is.”

Yes, it’s great to have an Ontario premier who makes nice with the federal government, often meets criticisms with compliments and who can’t stop dishing out encouraging words. Honey always goes down better than vinegar.

Story continues below advertisement

And for all that, the Ford government is botching the job, badly. It has to change course, and quickly. It has to change the advice it’s getting, and the advice it’s giving Ontarians. And to do that, it has to change personnel.

Government is about more than expressing empathy. It’s about overseeing a huge bureaucratic machinery, making the right decisions, being organized enough to execute on them, and clearly communicating the what, how and why. Empathy in the midst of failure is nice. Competence to prevent failure is better.

Yes, when it comes to handling COVID-19, Ontario isn’t doing as badly as Quebec. That’s a very low bar. Quebec still has the second-highest death rate in the developed world. But Ontario’s case numbers are, right now, heading in the wrong direction, and at high speed. The Ford government’s response has been both confusing and ineffective.

It often appears to be unaware of what is going on, or what it is doing about it. For example, the question of whether people should forgo Thanksgiving family gatherings turned into a skill-testing game earlier this week, with ministers, officials and the Premier unable to provide a straight answer. It was like Family Feud, except with only one team. And they still lost.

Meanwhile, the province’s system for testing and contact tracing broke down last month, with people waiting days to get a test, labs taking days to turn around results, and contact tracing becoming so delayed as to be pointless. The province moved to end lineups by restricting who could get tested, and forcing people to book appointments in advance. Testing centres now have long virtual lines. Better optics, not better results.

Mr. Ford always says that he’s just following the advice of his secretive, mythical “command table,” and that of the province’s Chief Medical Officer, the strangely passive Dr. David Williams. In fact, the Premier has put himself front and centre at almost every news conference, giving the impression that he’s making all the public-health decisions. It feels as if he thinks leadership means being not just premier, but health minister and chief doctor, too.

Mr. Ford can’t fire himself. But he can remake his team.

Story continues below advertisement

First, Mr. Ford needs to copy the Premier of British Columbia, John Horgan. Mr. Horgan hardly ever appears at pandemic news conferences. He’s left the file to the Health Minister, and the Health Minister has extensively delegated to a most capable provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. The results speak for themselves. Mr. Horgan is likely to be re-elected later this month.

And if B.C.'s results had not been good? Mr. Horgan could have replaced the people he’d entrusted with the file. And that’s the second thing Mr. Ford needs to do: replace the leads on this file, starting with Dr. Williams. He is clearly out of his depth, and he has to go. He may have loyalty to the Premier and the Premier to him, but their codependency is a case of the blind leading the blind, and the province falling into the ditch.

Ontario’s Premier needs someone who will give him the right advice, and give it to him straight. He also needs someone who will stand up to him, and who will – for the sake of their own reputation – resign if he won’t listen. In traditional, old-school cabinet government, a premier would empower a minister and her bureaucracy, and then stand back and let them get the job done. If they failed, he’d shuffle the minister, replace the experts, and try again. That’s what Mr. Ford needs to do now.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies