The real cost of cheap beer

Right now Ontario is paying a huge price for cheap beer.

Look, governing is complicated and should only be undertaken by serious people. But the thing about democracy – and we can debate if its a bug or a feature – is that we get the government we deserve based on how and for whom we vote.

The absolute, single-most dominant policy position advocated by Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives in the last provincial election in Ontario was DoFo’s Buck-a-Beer promise – a commitment to lower the minimum price of beer at the province’s ubiquitous Beer Stores.

Now, some people would say that the middle of a pandemic is likely not the time to criticize the Premier and his government’s response. They’re wrong. They’re probably also the people who say that talking about gun control after yet another mass-shooting in the U.S. is not the time.

Bullshit. This is exactly the time to have this discussion.

The punchline to all of this is voting matters and we get the governments we deserve. And I don’t see any point in waiting to deliver the line.

Ontario is facing an unmitigated disaster in the form of the third wave of Covid. Now, that’s not to in any way suggest that the first two waves were great. The province’s numbers throughout the pandemic have been on the high side compared to other jurisdictions.

But as the data shows, the current swing – which started almost immediately after the second wave had just barely subsided – is setting up to be really bad.

In fact, the third wave in Ontario is looking so bad that public health experts are predicting up to 35,000 cases per day by the end of May. That is shocking and should be horrifying. And for lots and lots of people in Ontario, it is.

It is so bad that DoFo has reached out to both the Federal Government and his buddy Jason Kenney for help.

Now, calling Ottawa isn’t crazy. It’s desperate, considering how politically far apart Ford is from Trudeau, but it isn’t crazy. Calling Alberta, on the other hand, is at least as crazy as it is desperate.

Alberta has been a covid basket case with the exception of its vaccine roll-out plan which, as I can personally attest, has been excellent.

But the third wave isn’t about vaccines. No, it really isn’t. And that’s the most infuriating thing about it.

The third wave is 50% a result of pandemic fatigue and 100% the failure of governments to insist on maintaining lockdowns, social-distancing and other measures to prevent transmission.

Yup, we’re all tired of this. And yes, the prospect of continuing to wear asks and not see friends and family or socialize in bars, restaurants, etc is shite.

But there are two things that anti-maskers and “economy first” conservatives seem to keep missing about this whole lockdown thing: first, Ontario has never had a real lockdown and second the places that have had real lockdowns – Atlantic Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, etc. – have almost entirely reopened.

That’s right: despite the bitching and whining, most Canadian provinces have not had a real lockdown. We’ve had periods where we couldn’t eat in restaurants; kids have had to do school from home; and yeah, anxiety and mental health have taken a hit for most of us.

But that’s not a lockdown. Australia had a lockdown. New Zealand had a lockdown. Atlantic Canada had a lockdown.

A lockdown means everything is closed – like, everything: schools churches, retail, restaurants. Ya know, everything. And we do that for 3 or 4 weeks while we continue vaccinating at what is becoming a pretty impressive pace.

These aren’t my ideas. These aren’t even just the theories of public health officials. These are the measures other jurisdictions – pubs opened in the UK this week because they took this approach with the second wave, btw – have successfully used to save their people and their jobs.

But not Ontario. No, Ontario has been half-assing its way through the pandemic all along but up until now it has largely gotten away with it outside of long-term care facilities where the impact has (likely literally) been criminal.

The problem now is the variants.

See, viruses mutate. That’s just a thing. But the variants that have mutated from covid-19 – especially the strain that originated in Brazil – are even more deadly than the original version. And they spread like wildfire on a dry prairie.

So, a raging pandemic with variants far more deadly and transmissible than the original disease and Dougie is reaching out to provinces like Alberta who’s ideologically based incompetence is even worse than Ontario!

It could hardly be less comforting for Ontarians. But that’s where this all comes full circle: it’s their fault.

After more than a decade of competent but imperfect government at the hands of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, the vox populi decided it was time for something different, as is their right.

But in looking for different they decided to try populism – it was a common flavour at the time. Trump and others were selling it by the bucket.

And while no one can really tell me what “populist” means, Dougie looked like he fit the bill: conservative, full of nonsensical but easily understood ideas and barely able to form whole sentences.

Enter Buck-a-Beer: to date, the epitome of Canadian populism.

But here’s the real stick point: our system isn’t meant for populism. It’s not a direct democracy. We elect representatives to govern on our behalf – we outsource decision making to those folks.

And all I’m saying is that if in this moment the people of Ontario can’t see how when doing so we choose folks who at least pretend to care about how that governing is done, well I’m just not sure it could possibly be more obvious.

Photo: iStock