Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, announced on Friday, April 16, stricter restrictions in an effort to manage and contain the COVID-19 cases in the province. He extended the stay-at-home lockdown to May 20, 2021, forbade outdoor activities, and gave police the power to stop and question anyone outside at random, the last one erring on the side of the violation of our human rights. In under 48 hours, he announced he was retracting the random police check and allowing outdoor activities upon receiving feedback from the public and public health officials. Feedback is a kind way of putting it, I guess.
It’s not every day you see a politician stand on a podium and apologize unless we’re talking about our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who can’t seem to be sorry enough. Forget Trudeau for now, though. Last week, Ford stood on his podium and apologized to Ontario for the hasty and irresponsible way he attempted to apply more COVID-19 restrictions on a population that has been compliant for the most part. If you haven’t seen the apology, I’ve embedded it below.
Hold my tea for a minute as I put on my linguistic hat to explain his apology:
- Ford starts with the phrase for which Canadians are famous: I’m sorry.
- He then passively blames the federal government for not including paid sick days for Ontario in the national budget.
- His resentment towards the federal government becomes a segway to how his government will take ownership for “coming up with our own solution” (note he didn’t make the mistake of promising paid sick days, so don’t get too excited).
- He shifted gears by validating everyone’s feelings about lockdowns, those who wanted it to be sooner v. those against lockdowns.
- He concluded by recounting heartfelt stories. While choking back tears, he heard from Ontarians about how difficult this pandemic has been for them from the start, adding his appreciation for frontline workers.
I have to say, without context and without knowing the man, one would assume this was the perfect apology. It checks all the boxes: apology, explaining why, taking ownership, validating people’s feelings, and making it personal through body language. Now let’s add the context:
- He spent over a year passing the buck to the federal government, knowing all health and social measures are provincial jurisdiction.
- He had a pissing contest with our Prime Minister at the expense of everyone’s lives.
- He wasted time calling the opposition names and shutting down every single suggestion they had. He name-called, bullied, and gaslit them by saying, “if you can’t cooperate, get out of the way.” Look, I’m not always an NDP fan, but I think we all recognize a narcissist losing control of the narrative when we see one.
- He fired his colleagues who had different views than him, which makes me wonder if the PC party is a cult.
- He’s lost control of the situation and the people, to the point almost every police agency in the province said NO to his new rules.
- And lastly, provincial elections are in 2022, and he knows very well he’s got a steep hill to climb if he wants to win, even just a minority government. I’m going to say it: he and his party will meet the same fate as Kathleen Wynn and the Liberals did in 2018.
The context certainly adds colour to his apology. The timing and the way it was orchestrated seems strategic. My humble opinion is that he may feel like a bag of shit (excuse me), but for entirely selfish reasons, as I pointed out above. To me, a genuine apology is followed by some form of action. No action has been taken, no clarity has been offered, and people are still upset. Speaking of, why are we still angry? I mentioned what has led to Ontarians feeling a lot of resentment, anger and, at times, hate for the Premier. Now is time to talk about why that is.
La résistance vs l’obéissance
Human beings are adaptable creatures by nature. Sure, many may prefer to spend their whole lives comfortable living in the same place, working the same place, and just coasting through life; however, this doesn’t mean they don’t have the capacity to adapt if a wrench was thrown at their life. Our ability to adapt to our surroundings makes us reasonably compliant so long as we remain within our stress threshold. For example, ten years ago, Tim Horton’s had the best coffee in Canada. Some of us – or probably only 22-year-old me – thought it was laced with crack because we couldn’t get enough. At some point, they announced they were changing the beans they would use to make their coffee. Suddenly, they went from being the best to barely mediocre. Some of us serious coffee drinkers voiced our complaints here and there, but, eventually, we accepted this and decided to keep drinking Tim Horton’s coffee or cross the floor to McDonald’s. Yes, this is an oversimplistic example, but it does demonstrate that we can be accommodating to change as long as we can tolerate the stress of said change. Adapting is a way for us to alleviate the stress brought on by our new environment. Once we can no longer handle the pressure a change imposes on us, we resist. It’s like being backed into a corner; at some point, it feels like the only way out is to push back.
I often say human behaviour is unpredictable, difficult to measure, and can be highly volatile depending on the circumstances. This includes how we react in stressful situations and how we adapt.
- It’s March 2020. The government just announced the State of Emergency and that a lockdown is coming into effect. Your employer tells you to go home and work from home until further notice. “Take your belongings with you,” your manager says, “We don’t know when you’ll be able to come back to the office.” Your job is secure; you have a steady income and your saving on commuting cost. This work from home situation isn’t so bad. But your inability to separate work and home has left you working till 11 pm and has taken a toll on your mental and emotional health.
- It’s November 2020, and you’re preparing for the holidays. You lost your job at the head of this pandemic and have been living off unemployment and COVID stimulus cheques. Nevertheless, you’re determined to have a joyous holiday and plan a small gathering for you, your kids and your parents. “Keep it positive,” you tell yourself as you walk into the store, “It’s all going to be fine, as long as I can see my family.” You haven’t seen your parents in eight months, because they’re vulnerable, and so this holiday was going to be extra special. As you drive back home, you hear on the radio the government announce another lockdown, or stay-at-home order as they call it now, for the holidays. Your parents call you to cancel, and your kids think it’s best if they stay in their own homes to be safe.
- It’s March 2021, the week before the Easter long weekend. You’re a restaurant owner and have been struggling to make ends meet especially keeping up with the rent. Some light at the end of the tunnel as you hear that restaurants will be allowed to open for dining in, at least patios. You have a couple of days to prepare for the opening and to leverage the long weekend profits. You rehire your staff, bulk order fresh groceries, frozen food, and stock up the beer and liquor. A few days later, the government changes their mind and quickly shut down dine-in services, leaving you with the thousand+ dollar bill you incurred.
- April 2021 marks another “stay-at-home order.” You almost drove off the road this morning getting home after a 16-hour shift. You’re a nurse at the hospital, and today was one of those days you wished you were anything but a healthcare provider. You’re overworked, disrespected, and accused of working for globalist leaders and that you’re faking the whole pandemic. Your family tells you they don’t understand the big deal because someone on Twitter uploaded a video of an empty ER. You’re exhausted having to explain yourself to your family. “Of course, the ER is empty; it’s not where we keep the patients tied to a vent!” You scream into your steering wheel, tired of it all. You’re mad because the government hasn’t been clear about what the game plan is. Regardless of how many lockdowns you’ve lived through, the numbers keep going up. You don’t understand why people can’t just stay home, because at this moment all you can think about is your circumstances, and why people can’t help you by not leaving their homes.
When we reflect on how this pandemic has affected our lives, we measure the impact by considering our stress levels and how well we adapted to manage this stress. Those who experienced minimal disruption to their routine have not only adapted to their new surroundings but have accepted it to a degree as a new norm. Meanwhile, those who experienced more hardship and the higher the pressure, the harder it became to adapt and the more likely they were to protest. The toll stress takes on our mental and physical body is not fun. So it’s understandable that there are people who have had enough. Each person has a unique threshold to determine when they’ve had enough. Each individual gets to that point differently because everyone’s circumstances aren’t the same as the four small examples above show.
This pandemic has exposed many of our flaws as individuals and as a society. For one, never have I been more disgusted by the selfishness and self-centeredness of human beings. People who tell others to shut up and go home, while those outside cussing out those wanting to wear a mask. Not to mention those who call the cops on their neighbours; 1944 called asking for their Nazis sympathizers back. Yea, I said it. But all these human behaviours expose an even bigger crack in our society. It’s a clear indication that our societal system and infrastructure was not designed to support this much stress. Our healthcare, economy, education and other social policies consist of significant cracks growing as the days go on. And the longer we lockdown and do nothing about the gaps this pandemic has identified, the worse it’ll be for us and future generations to come. What are these cracks I speak of, you ask? Find out in next week’s Sunday Preach.