Worth the risk to ask Premier Ford for regional input on economy restart

Just ask, the worst they can say is no.

While that’s usually the case, sometimes those brave enough to ask receive more than a simple ‘no’ in return. Such was the case for the mayor and wardens of Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington County when they saw their request for some regional control over reopening the economy go completely misunderstood. Ontario Premier Doug Ford denied the written request, which was put forward by Kingston mayor Bryan Paterson and endorsed by L&A and Frontenac County under the medical backing of KFLA medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore.

Some misinterpreted the request to mean the KFLA was seeking some sort of preferential treatment. As if region was asking to be able to open certain businesses, such as dining areas of restaurants, in the hopes of having residents from the GTA and beyond flock to the one section of the province that was allowing customers to enjoy a sit down meal. Paterson even went as far as to appear on CBC’s Radio’s All In A Day program to try and clear the air. He says the letter was just as much about having the ability to close businesses if there was a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases as it was about opening businesses deemed to be low risk by medical professionals.

Those that read the letter would find KFLA’s protocols for reopening businesses were aligned with what the province had already laid out, with a few more measures tacked on in the event they had to quickly lockdown again following an outbreak. Ford’s denial wasn’t all that surprising. Though the request wasn’t as outrageous as some have made it out to be, it was still a long shot to expect Ford to grant certain privileges to different municipalities. While it is true KFLA has done exceptionally well in terms of limiting the spread of COVID-19 when compared to surrounding areas, giving one municipal government some say in the re-opening of the economy would invariably lead to others demanding they get the same. The premier has done well at putting aside politics and uniting the entire province through a very difficult chapter.

On the flip side, it was worth asking. Even if the result has led to some online ridicule from neighbouring communities who weren’t quite grasping what it was KFLA was asking for. Let’s be honest, people are going to ridicule politicians regardless. In the unlikely event the local government was given a voice, they could have helped potentially restart some sections of a hurting economy while working closely with the local health unit. Public health is, and should remain, the biggest priority.

That doesn’t mean picking up the pieces of a battered economy is going to be any easier. Anything that can be done-safely-to help mitigate those losses can’t be ignored. Even if they didn’t get the answer they were hoping, it was worth the attempt.

Adam Prudhomme

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