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Thomas in the Sun: Time for Trudeau to stop berating and start co-operating

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas with Toronto Sun logo
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to stop berating provincial leaders and start co-operating with them, says OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas in a Toronto Sun op-ed published on Nov. 16.

“Somebody’s got to tell the prime minister that nobody likes a nag, especially when he’s got a hand in creating the problems he’s nagging people about,” Thomas wrote. “The finger-wagging is not appreciated. And it’s certainly not helpful, especially coming from someone who could actually be helping instead of just throwing stones.”

Thomas said that instead of focusing on lock-downs, Trudeau should be helping the provinces investing in vastly expanding our public health care system.

“If our hospitals, long-term care homes, and home care networks had the capacity to safely deal with hotspots and outbreaks, lockdowns and closures wouldn’t be nearly as important.”

Here’s the full op-ed:

Thomas: Time for Trudeau to stop berating and start co-operating

Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas

Nov 16, 2020

Somebody’s got to tell the prime minister that nobody likes a nag, especially when he’s got a hand in creating the problems he’s nagging people about.

Last week, Justin Trudeau took to the airwaves to scold and shame provinces and municipalities that are trying to balance the pandemic with the people.

“I would hope that no leader in our country is easing public health vigilance because they feel pressure not to shut down businesses or slow down our economy,” he said.

The finger-wagging is not appreciated. And it’s certainly not helpful, especially coming from someone who could actually be helping instead of just throwing stones.

The country’s provincial cabinets and municipal councils are all under tremendous pressure.

Of course, they must deal with the pandemic and take measures to stop the spread of the virus.

And I’ll go on record saying while politically expedient, from a health perspective, it wasn’t smart for the provincial government in British Columbia to hold an early election during a pandemic.

But for the most part, our provincial and municipal governments are doing what they can to balance the need for safety with the needs of citizens to carry on with their lives and earn a living.

Unfortunately, they’re being crushed under the burden of their health-care costs. And Trudeau’s government could be doing more — much more — to help ease that burden.

If our hospitals, long-term care homes, and home care networks had the capacity to safely deal with hotspots and outbreaks, lockdowns and closures wouldn’t be nearly as important.

If we had better health-care infrastructure, and more front-line heroes, we’d be much better able to maintain pandemic discipline without all the disruption.

Even before the pandemic, we’ve known that our health-care system was falling dangerously behind the growing demand.

Here in Ontario, a number of our hospitals have been operating at or above their capacity for years. Hallway health care has become the norm. Conference rooms are having to be converted to patient rooms. And ambulances are forced to wait outside ERs, sometimes for hours, because there are no beds available for the people they’re transporting.

It’s the same story outside hospitals, too. Even before the pandemic, our long-term care and home care systems were plagued with massive capacity shortages and crushing wait times.

Health-care professionals like those in OPSEU/SEFPO have been raising the alarm bells for years. Government investment in health care has simply not been keeping up with the rising need and the rising costs.

Yes, building health-care capacity will take significant investment, especially from the federal government.

But it’s the right thing to do. And not only that, it’s the popular thing to do.

A number of public opinion surveys — including one commissioned by my union earlier this year — clearly show that Ontarians and Canadians are vastly more interested in investing in the public services that keep us healthy and safe than they are in obsessing over deficits.

A stronger health-care system will help get us through this pandemic, and it will help protect us from other pandemics that the experts say are bound to come.

Prime minister, the time for rhetoric is over.

It’s time to stop berating other politicians, and start co-operating.

We need action on Canada’s health-care system. And we need it now.

— Warren (Smokey) Thomas is the president of OPSEU