Doug Ford may be an incompetent premier, but he’s not illegitimate
Martin Regg Cohn is making a few different points in this column, but I want to focus on one in particular. It actually has little to do with anything that Doug Ford may have done right or wrong. It’s more about what the federal Liberals have either been doing or not doing depending on your perspective when it comes to Canada’s international borders.
Even with a year of COVID behind us, the rules around international travel are still a complete mess. The idea of strict quarantine rules and border closures making it difficult to move freely is a good one on the surface, but if they’re going to work, they have to be applied consistently. Why, for instance, is the experience completely different depending on whether you fly vs. drive between Canada and the U.S.? And why is anyone non-essential or who hasn’t been given a special exemption (a couple of concepts we still haven’t gotten around to federally standardizing for some reason) allowed to come here from anywhere in the first place? We could have the best leaders in the world at every level (we absolutely do not have that), but until we actually close the gaping holes in our border policies, we’re never beating this virus.
The biggest blunder of this pandemic, the open sore that keeps COVID-19 festering, is our failure to effectively secure our airports and seal our borders from first to last.
We got the worst scientific advice — from the best scientists — to maintain our international links early on, and we have left them largely open ever since. We refused to halt flights from China when COVID-19 first broke out in Wuhan; we maintained flights to Iran when infections exploded in Tehran; we stayed connected to continental Europe through the worst.
We closed the land border to America for tourists, but we maintained air connections when the U.S. was the epicentre for COVID-19.
We briefly stopped flights to the U.K. when the British variant was identified, but it took until late February for the federal government to impose permanent quarantine measures at international airports — and even now arriving passengers routinely flout the rules, forced only to pay a fine.
Bizarrely, full flights are still coming in from Brazil and India, two countries that are in a desperate battle against local variants that are spreading wildly. France has suspended flights from at least some of those destinations, yet our quarantine rules still have massive loopholes.
Today there are new rules against interprovincial travel in Canada, while international travellers can arrive almost unimpeded. We are paying a heavy price for COVID-19 transmission on the ground, while high-flying air passengers pay token fines for transgressing.
The most lethal variants imported from overseas have long since overtaken the original strain of COVID-19. Even if Ontario did everything right — which it surely has not — the uninterrupted introduction of foreign variants to this day is undoing and undermining our best (and worst) efforts.