Premier Doug Ford is more concerned about getting re-elected next year than he is about ensuring people have opportunities to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, insisted provincial Liberal party leader Steven Del Duca during a stop in Guelph Tuesday morning.
“There’s nothing wrong with a premier touring this province. There is something fundamentally wrong with a premier who thinks we’re already on the other side of this pandemic and he’s already focused on his re-election efforts instead of getting us through this third wave,” he said, pointing to a series of campaign-style stops Ford has made since the provincial budget was released last week. “We need Doug Ford to recognize what his job is in this critical moment and that’s to get vaccines out of Ford’s fridges and into people’s arms.”
Del Duca was critical of the government’s vaccine rollout efforts, especially with regard to the participation of family doctors, who he said are already used to providing vaccines to patients and patients are familiar with that process.
“The fact of the matter is they’ve been making this up on the back of a napkin, they have not been prepared for this,” he said of vaccine rollout plans, adding officials have known for months that vaccines were coming.
“We still have not seen Doug Ford and his government fully engage family doctors in the vaccine rollout and, only belatedly, just a couple of weeks ago did they start using the pharmacy network that we have. It makes no sense.”
The Guelph Family Health Team and others throughout the province are involved in a provincial pilot program to administer COVID-19 vaccines to patients between the ages of 60 and 64, but the program has not been expanded at this point.
It’s really tough to lead a government in a crisis when you don’t really believe in government. I think that’s the biggest challenge with Doug Ford, I don’t think he believes in government,” said Del Duca. “It makes it really, really hard for the rest of us to have confidence that he’s going to get the job done.”
If elected to government during next year’s provincial election, Del Duca said the Liberals would cancel plans for a new highway and direct $8 billion over five years to help fund the backlog of repairs and upgrades needed at publicly funded schools.
“During this pandemic, we’ve heard stories of teachers who have had to prop open windows, in some cases windows that barely open, in order to get reasonable ventilation when dealing with a public health crisis. That’s insane in a province as wealthy as ours,” he said.
Asked about the irony of criticizing the premier for making campaign-style stops while himself making a campaign-style stop, Del Duca said, “I’m not the Premier of Ontario.”
The Liberal party leader said he’s publicly called for opposition leaders to be involved with pandemic-related response discussions on multiple occasions, to no avail.
“This is not how you win a war. You build a multi-partisan coalition, you bring the scientists in,” he said.
“If I was the premier today, rest assured I would not be out taking partisan shots, I would not be out campaigning for re-election, I would be working 24 hours a day to make sure the vaccines were getting rolled out, and if they weren’t getting rolled out, I’d want to know why and I would get it fixed.”