Whether it’s a by-product of ramped up testing or a legitimate phenomenon, Ontario is reporting a second wave of COVID-19, citing an all-time high of 797 new cases well above the first-wave high of 640 new cases on April 24. Despite processing nearly 40,000 cases daily, Ontario’s 153 assessment centres have been whittling down a backlog that was once at 90,000 cases.
Independent Ontario MPP Randy Hillier is not singing from the official government songbook on the province’s latest round of hardline measures. Hillier has long been the odd man out in Ontario politics. Expelled from the PC Caucus by Ford in early 2019, Hillier has proven a genuine maverick his entire career.
Hillier told the Western Standard that the severity of the illness should be measured by deaths and hospitalizations, not by positive test results. He says the tests are unreliable and weren’t designed for what they are being used for.
“Barbara Yaffe stated in July that we could have [almost] 50 per cent false positives. Now that’s a high, high number. You’ve got to say to yourself, why are we using a test that has such a high error rate?”
Hillier says “disinformation, misinformation, uncertainty, and doubts” were common in the first months of the pandemic, but the low number of deaths on the infected Diamond Princess cruise ship – especially among those who weren’t elderly – were evidence enough to know that COVID-19 fears were overstated.
In May, the rogue MPP called on the government to end the state of emergency and restore power back to the provincial parliament. He says the government made bad decisions when it wouldn’t let people take their loved ones out of seniors’ care homes and rejected the Ontario Medical Association’s offer of staffing those homes with dedicated physicians. He says two-thirds of Ontario 3,000 COVID-19 deaths occurred in care home facilities.
“We were told that the infection fatality was going to be worse than the Spanish flu. And now the WHO has released the fatality rate last Friday and it’s pretty much the same as the seasonal flu,” Hillier said. “We see that Stats Canada for 2018 says there were 8,500 who people died from influenza-related illness. And we’re at 9,200 this year for COVID.”
Hillier says the risks of “asymptomatic spread” and “touching surfaces” have turned out to be “not true,” though it might be more accurate to say they were greatly overstated. “There were so many misconceptions. Everything was misconceptions.”
Despite being relegated to the lonely far corner of the legislature, Hillier has kept up contacts with his former colleagues in the PC Caucus, and says that more MPPs share his perspective on the virus than have the courage to say so publicly.
“Listen, I can tell you quietly, but there’s more Conservatives who are supporting me than their are Doug Ford,” Hillier said with a chuckle. “But there’s that coercive element of politics. And they’re fearful of being kicked out of caucus or they’re fearful of retribution or coercion from the party brass so they’re not speaking up.”
Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios was kicked out of the PC Caucus in July by Ford for voting against a bill granting the government sweeping emergency powers, and stripping the Ontario legislature of much of its oversight responsibilities. She now sits with Hillier in the “Siberian” corner of the legislature.
Premier Ford was dismissive of an anti-lockdown protest in April, calling the demonstrators “yahoos.” However, a renewed groundswell of protest has emerged. On September 26, hundreds gathered at Yonge and Dundas square to protest new measures. Twenty prominent doctors wrote an open letter to Doug Ford, published in the Toronto Sun October 1, to urge the premier not to return to lockdowns.
“Overdoses have risen 40 per cent in some jurisdictions. Extensive morbidity has been experienced by those whose surgery has been cancelled, and the ramifications for cancer patients whose diagnostic testing was delayed has yet to be determined,” the doctors wrote.
Regardless, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said on October 5 that she was “very seriously asking again that everyone rethink their Thanksgiving plans” and urged a four-week suspension of indoor service at bars and restaurants and indoor group exercise classes.
Ford refused. “If there’s a request to shut down restaurants, I have to sit back and look at the evidence,” he said at Monday’s press conference.
“The easy thing to do is without seeing endless data is just close everything down. I’m sorry, I’m not prepared to do that to people’s lives right now,” Ford said.
“I would [need] to exhaust every single avenue before I ruin people’s lives,” he said. “Show me the evidence. Hard, concrete evidence.”
Hillier has doubts. “At no time have I actually seen them operate on evidence. Even the mandatory masks that he [Ford] announced last Friday, there is no evidence that they work. So, if you’re going to gamble and bet on Doug Ford using evidence to make decisions going forward, be prepared to lose a lot of money. There’s two things driving Doug Ford right now: trying to appease a very fearful public, and a very singular and distorted view by many in the public health business.”
In the provincial parliament, Hillier held up an R.F.P. for detention centres in Ontario, suggesting they could detain a broad range of people, not just COVID-19 carriers. The PC minister rose in the house only to say, “Next question.”
“I see COVID is in a very grave light and it concerns me gravely, not about the virus but about where our society is going to end. I think it would be beneficial for all your readers to think about what the future looks like and if they ought to speak up and influence where we end up. Because an authoritarian regime and the end of representative government, a complete loss of our freedoms and liberties is not going to be a good place.”