The best they can
By Chad Ingram
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying self-isolation practices, which we're about a month into in this country, are exhausting and extremely stressful for, well, everybody.
But imagine the pressure that would come with being the premier of the province, or the prime minister of the country right now.
At first blush, Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford may not seem to have much in common. However, both are from prominent families with varying degrees of political pedigree, both surnames affiliated with the brand of their respective political parties in at least some capacity. Both are adored by a portion of their parties, and both are reviled by at least some of their political rivals.
Now Trudeau and Ford have something else in common, and that’s being in power during the biggest public health crisis that most of us alive have ever witnessed. It’s presumably something they didn’t count on when they were putting their names on the ballot. And, by and large, they are both doing a good job.
Day after day, for a month now, they stand before the cameras of the national media, providing daily updates on government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, an invisible, shape-shifting enemy that we don’t completely understand. How to best flatten the curve of the virus, when the peak of that curve might come, when a vaccine might be developed – all of these things are essentially educated best guesses from the global scientific community.
Ontarians and Canadians are scared for their lives, and for their livelihoods. Not only must both leaders keep up to speed on the day’s disease data, both legislatures have been having emergency meetings, passing legislation worth tens of billons of dollars in aid. The national and provincial economies are essentially on pause, people are being laid off left, right and centre, and many businesses will never reopen their doors. In its wake the COVID-19 crisis will leave a global economic recession/depression that will stretch on for years. All of that seems like it could cause more than one or two sleepless nights for those in leadership positions.
Both Ford and Trudeau have been criticized at times, which is of course the nature of politics. In early press briefings, Ford was criticized for still having cabinet ministers standing shoulder-to-shoulder behind him on stage, a practice that ceased a few weeks ago now. Ontario’s initial list of “essential” businesses that would still be permitted to operate came under scrutiny for being too lenient, and has since been revised. Finding the balance between protecting public health while trying to avoid completely killing the economy cannot be easy.
When he was first in self-isolation, Trudeau was accused of “hiding,” and when he came out of self-isolation, he was criticized for doing that. As I write this, he’s being criticized for taking a 15-minute trip into Quebec to spend Easter with his wife and children.
All of these criticisms seem frivolous against the immense scope of the ongoing pandemic, and its myriad and substantial social and economic consequences. We are in uncharted waters here. These are dark and stressful times.
You may dislike Trudeau. You may dislike Ford. You may not care very much for either of them. But in the face of unprecedented crisis, it seems obvious that both of them are trying their best.
And, ultimately, that’s all we can really ask.