In my many years of journalism in Ontario, I have never seen a provincial government that manages the message as well as the Ford Conservative government.
They have taken their spin-doctoring to an even greater level during COVID-19.
Every day throughout this pandemic, Premier Doug Ford has taken to a podium with one or more of his Cabinet ministers.
Many of these video ops involve some form of funding announcement.
Some are a tad misleading. Take for example the Dec. 8 announcement by Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, Lisa MacLeod.
She started her Zoom announcement by saying the government was handing out $3.2-million.
In actual fact, they were giving $350,000 of new money. The rest had already been spent.
MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha LakesBrock, Laurie Scott often attends the pressers involving her constituency.
However, you’ll note she hasn’t held a press conference to discuss her government’s role in what environmentalists and critics say breaks a promise to protect the Greenbelt from development, or any of the other Bills that have been passed by her government under somewhat questionable circumstances.
But when it comes to announcing money, Scott and the provincial Conservatives are unparalled.
Further, it should be noted that they rarely announce where the money is coming from. One can presume that the lion’s share is taxpayers’ dollars, though. So, in essence, the government is announcing that it is giving you back your money for some project or program, all the while patting itself on the back.
What is often lacking in these announcements as well is the ‘when.’
You need look no further than Haliburton Highlands Health Services to see examples of moneys promised, but not yet delivered.
The HHHS board met Dec. 11 and member, David O’Brien, quite rightly criticized the province while discussing the organization’s $455,000 operating deficit.
O’Brien said the financials as of Sept. 30 are due to COVID-19 expenses.
He said about $424,000 in the deficit is related to lost revenue with service closures that the province has deemed not eligible for provincial funding. Another $31,000 is from increased overtime due to staff recruiting and retention problems.
He said the province did provide some reimbursement for expenses up until July but he’s disappointed the province has not provided more – in the six months since.
O’Brien said the board, staff and HHHS executive has done everything it’s been asked by the province.
However, funding isn’t keeping up with that provincial ask.
When announcing their budget Nov. 5 – another big media splash – the Conservatives pledged an extra $572 million for hospitals to support pandemicassociated costs.
And yet, surprise, surprise, HHHS has not received any formal communication about how many dollars will flow its way, or more importantly, when those actual dollars will hit their accounts.
While we understand the bureaucracy in translating press announcements to the real thing in Ontario communities, maybe less time could be spent on the bling and more on the details of ensuring much-needed dollars get to where they have to go in a timely fashion.