Photo: Ontario Premier Doug Ford Credit: BruceK (CC BY-SA 2.0)
CNC Editorial Team
Premier Doug Ford’s Conservative government of Ontario is worsening inequality in the province and it can be seen through the third wave of COVID-19.
As of yesterday there were 4,401 new cases in Ontario, the second-highest total recorded. Hospitalizations in the province are at their highest they’ve ever been with 1,646. The same with Intensive Care Units (ICU) with 590 people fighting for their life.
But underlying these numbers is that some Ontarians are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. One way to notice that difference is clear: ZIP codes.
In Toronto, an investigation by The Local shows that St. Clair and Mount Pleasant are the neighbourhoods with the vaccination rate at 22.4 per cent while Jane and Finch is the lowest at 5.5 per cent. St. Clair and Mount Pleasant’s average income is $179,581. Jane and Finch? It’s $25,938.
According to The Local, the five hardest-hit neighbourhoods in Toronto for COVID-19 infections had zero pharmacies offering vaccines last month.
This type of favouritism towards the affluent falls on the Ford government. As the governing body in charge of COVID-19 prevention policy for the province and vaccine distribution it is clear that high-income earners have been prioritized.
Aggravating the problem is that lower and working class neighbourhoods are more in need of vaccines than affluent ones. According to a recent study, lower-income and working class neighbourhoods are more exposed to COVID-19. The reasons are not hard to realize. People in lower-income neighbourhoods cannot afford to work remotely and many essential workers come from working class neighbourhoods.
When the Ford government decided to give pharmacies the power to distribute vaccines, it was pharmacies in affluent areas that initially got doses, not neighbourhoods with plenty of COVID-19 cases.
We are now in Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout and essential workers are still not eligible for a vaccine because of their vocation.
That means if you are working at a grocery store, construction site or most teachers in a school no vaccination is available to you because of your job, even though you are the one risking your health by working.
Making matters worse, the Ford government refuses to give paid sick days, even though the medical community has been insistent on the provincial government to do so for months.
Sick days matter because without them, employees have to come into work, even if they are showing signs of COVID-19. Without paid sick days some workers are not in a financial position to take a day off and potentially prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you need an example, look no further than the Amazon distribution warehouse in Brampton, where over 600 out of 5,000 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 since last October.
The Ford government appeared to correct one of their missteps by announcing there will be vaccine pop-up clinics in neighbourhoods where someone is more likely to get COVID-19.
But a CBC investigation showed even this announcement is a ruse. Under this government’s classification medium to well-off neighbourhoods like the Ottawa suburbs of Kanata are designated COVID-19 hotspots while neighbourhoods in cities like Hamilton that have serious COVID-19 problems are not.
How can Ontarians trust this government if Ford’s Conservatives cannot be honest about a policy as simple as vaccinating the neighbourhoods most vulnerable to COVID-19?
With Ford’s government tumbling in popularity, Ontarians are fed-up.
Trying to sound folksy at press conferences and denouncing the idea of provincially implemented sick days as ‘playing politics’ is not how a government helps its people through a pandemic.
It is the actions of a government protecting certain ZIP codes at the expense of others.