Ontario Liberal leader Steven Del Duca took centre stage across the road from Victory Public School. He was back in Guelph for one reason on Tuesday morning: to mark sure everyone in Ontario knows that he thinks Doug Ford is doing a bad job managing the pandemic, and that a new Liberal government elected after next year’s Provincial campaign will make some changes.
The chosen spot for the media scrum was Exhibition Park across from Victory School, and Del Duca wanted it known that if elected in 2022 that it is the intention of his Liberal Party to invest $8 billion in repairing and upgrading Ontario’s public schools. This money will come from cancelling the construction of Highway #413, a controversial project that’s received pushback from opposition parties, environmental groups, and even some municipal governments.
“I would much rather invest that money, that hard earned tax money from the people of this province, into publicly-funded education, which is a core value, and a priority of mine,” Del Duca said. “It’s not just this school in particular, it’s just a symbol of how important it is to make sure that our classrooms provide the very best learning and working conditions for both our students and for our frontline education workers.”
Del Duca’s second message for the current government under Premier Doug Ford is to stop the campaign-style swing around Ontario after last week’s budget announcement, and focus on the twin priorities of distributing vaccines and stopping the increasing number of new cases across the province.
“We need Doug Ford to recognize what his job is in this critical moment, and that’s to get vaccines out of Ford’s fridges and into people’s arms,” Del Duca explained saying that Ford is acting like pandemic is over and he’s now free to work on his re-election. “We’re not going to get through this third wave if the population doesn’t get vaccinated. We need him to be at the science table, and we need him to be leading.”
And yes, Del Duca seemed to be aware of the irony of calling out Ford for campaigning while essentially being on the campaign trail himself. “If I was the premier today you can rest assured that I would not be out taking partisan shots, and I would not be out campaigning for re-election,” he said. “I would be working 24 hours a day to make sure that vaccines were rolling out, and if they weren’t getting rolled out, I would want to know why.”
Del Duca reserved his most critical comments for the current state of the vaccine rollout. He accused the Ford government of developing their plans on “the back of a napkin” and how they did not adequately make advanced preparations for distribution. While crediting the work of some public health units like Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, Del Duca said that there have been huge gaps in the system established by a government that has left half-a-million vaccine doses in freezers waiting for distribution.
“Every year, my parents, who are in their 80s, get their flu vaccine at one of two places, either a local pharmacy or their family doctor,” Del Duca said. “We have not seen Doug Ford or his government really engage family doctors in the vaccine rolled out, and it was only a couple of weeks ago that they started using the pharmacy network. It makes no sense.”
The fact that things are not worse, Del Duca said, is a testament to the dedication of frontline and healthcare workers across Ontario, but he thinks those people have been left hung out to dry without any centralized leadership out of Queen’s Park.
“When you see this sort of scattershot and patchwork approach, and the really confusing and incoherent messaging coming from the premier, who’s supposed to be leading the province, you have to five full credit to the local community, and the residents and the workers there,” Del Duca said. “I can only imagine how much stronger this response would have been to Ontario if the person in charge actually understood his job, and worked closely with the heroes here.”