Ford government silences opposing views on lockdowns

 

John Carpay, The Post Millennial

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has failed, utterly and miserably, to refute the anti-lockdown case presented by Roman Baber, Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament for York Centre. Mr. Barber was recently kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus for publicly advocating for an end to lockdowns.In a January 15, 2021 open letter to Premier Ford, Mr. Barber stated:

“The medicine is killing the patient. Ontario’s Hospital and ICU Capacity are better than in the last three years. I…plead for the millions of lives and livelihoods ruined by Ontario’s Public Health restrictions…The lockdown isn’t working. It’s causing an avalanche of suicides, overdoses, bankruptcies, divorces and takes an immense toll on our children. Dozens of leading doctors implored you to end the lockdown…the Lockdowns are objectively deadlier than Covid.”Like too many other politicians, Premier Ford is aggressively hostile to serious public debate on the issue of whether lockdowns do more harm than good. Premier Ford wants to limit this debate to the secret deliberations of his Progressive Conservative caucus meetings, where neither the media nor the public can learn about the arguments for and against lockdowns.Of course, it’s entirely legitimate for political party caucus meetings to be secret, to promote frank and honest debate amongst elected politicians of the same party. But lockdowns impact every citizen, and need to be debated openly in public.

Public opinion is divided on the question of whether lockdowns do more harm than good. There is no good reason why Ontario’s MPPs (and all politicians in all provinces, plus federal MPs) cannot express their views on lockdowns publicly, as well as within caucus meetings. Restricting  healthy debate keeps the public in the dark, promotes ideological tribalism, prevents elected officials from representing their constituent base, and deeply harms democracy. The less public debate there is on an issue, the more likely that name-calling and personal attacks will replace well-informed and intelligent argument.Mr. Baber’s two-page letter is worth reading in its entirety.Mr. Baber puts forward the following specific examples of lockdown harms:

Cancer screenings at Princess Margaret are back to 60 percent with Oncologists fearing a “tsunami of cancer.” (Premier Ford does not dispute or refute this point.)

Ontario’s overdose rate is trending at 50 percent above normal and this increase alone, in opioid deaths, may exceed the number of Covid deaths outside of long-term care homes. (Premier Ford’s response is that opioid deaths are up by 38 percent not 50 percent. As if a 38 percent increase is okay, but a 50 percent increase is not acceptable.)

According to the Canadian Medical Association, in September of 2020, 10 percent of adults reported “recent thoughts and feelings of suicide” which is four times the normal rate. Amongst Canadians aged 19-35, 20 percent reported recent thoughts and feelings of suicide. (Premier Ford neither refutes nor disputes this point.)

SickKids is calling the increase in eating disorders in young people an “unprecedented crisis.” (Premier Ford does not dispute this.)

Tens of thousands of businesses shut down. The unemployment rate is near double & 320,000 people have not regained work. We are faced with a catastrophic wave of bankruptcies and foreclosures. (Premier Ford does not deny this.)
The Government is criminalizing normal human behaviour and putting law-abiding Ontarians in legal jeopardy. Public Health can’t change human behaviour. My heart breaks for the family of Damien Moses. (Premier Ford presents no counterargument.)

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott sent a four-page “fact sheet” to media in response to Mr. Baber’s arguments. However, this PDF document does not appear anywhere online for the public to access or review. Not posting the government’s response online is a clever political tactic, since lockdown-supporting media refer frequently to the government’s “fact sheet” in their narrative, while members of the public are unable to see how this document  utterly and completely fails to refute Mr. Baber’s case. To support the government and lockdowns, media are also withholding this document from the public. Therefore the Justice Centre has posted it.Mr. Baber further states that “Covid is real, but the fear of Covid is exaggerated.” He points to well-known facts that are fully supported by the government’s own data and statistics. Roughly 80 percent of Covid deaths occur in long-term care (LTC), where people are (on average) in their last year of life. The virus poses no threat to children at all, and it has a negligible impact on the population’s life expectancy. Mr. Baber states: “We should focus on & fix LTC!”

There is no disagreement from Mr. Ford.Next, Mr. Baber refers to Ontario Government data on Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Occupancy, pointing out that it was at 81 percent in December of 2020 and 81 percent on January 4, 2021.  This is lower than the 87 percent (2017), 91 percent (2018) and 84 percent (2019) of daily-average ICU Occupancy in the preceding three years.Premier Ford’s “fact sheet” tries to refute Mr. Baber’s claim by saying that occupancy is at 90 percent, not 81 percent. Even then, 90 percent is still lower than the occupancy rate in Covid-free 2018. Ontario’s hospitals (on average) are not full, with occupancy ranging from 50 percent to 110 percent, according to the government’s “fact sheet.” More significantly, the Ontario Government pretends that overcrowded hospitals are a new phenomenon caused by Covid, when in fact “hallway medicine” has been the norm at many Canadian hospitals for many years.

Mr. Baber states that “The Lockdown is having catastrophic effects on Ontario’s children…We are scaring children even though they are 100 percent safe… The crisis is in long-term care homes, not schools… Premier, we should stop scaring children. This generation of kids will grow up with an anxiety disorder and will be afraid of normal life. Kids need to be kids again, back in school with their friends. They should not believe that coming close to another child may result in someone’s death. It’s false and unwarranted.”Premier Ford’s “fact sheet” provides no response to this, and Premier Ford does not deny that children are being harmed by lockdowns.The two hardest-hitting points in the Ontario government’s “fact sheet” are that Ontario has 228 hospitals (not 492 as stated in Mr. Baber’s letter), and that Mr. Baber incorrectly spelled the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre as Princess “Margret” rather than “Margaret.”

Premier Ford’s defence of lockdowns has no merit. I can only hope that his lawyers will present a similarly inadequate case in a forthcoming court action brought by the Justice Centre to end lockdowns in Ontario.Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which has filed court actions against Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia to end lockdowns.