Don’t Be A Martin Regg Cohn

So you want to talk about health care?

Sure. Why not? In the midst of a global pandemic, where exactly, nobody really knows, not high alert crisis-mode, at least not here, at least not at the moment, we’re certainly not behaving like there’s a contagious virus still running rampant. Actions speaking louder than words and all that. Maybe now’s as good a time as any to take a moment and assess the situation. There was that election 7, 8 months ago which probably would’ve been a better time to have the discussion, what’s not working and how to fix things going forward, etc. & etc. You know, during a campaign. But nobody really seemed that interested in the subject, what with the summer coming on, there was a lot of getting back to normal to get back to. Let’s just move on, shall we. Nobody any the worse for wear. If you don’t count the dead and the ailing.


Let’s talk turkey now. Get down to the brass tacks. Universal health care. What do we mean these days by ‘universal’? Single payer. Who exactly is that single payer and for what medical procedures do they pay? Backlogs. Wait times. Staffing shortages. Why is it so difficult to find a family physician these days?

One caveat to this discussion.

No one is allowed to talk as if anything Doug Ford and his government has to say is in the least bit serious. There will be no Martin Regg Cohn-ing on the topic. (MRCing, for short.) You know how that goes. ‘Doug Ford has zero credibility whatsoever for being up front and honest about any approach he has to governance but maybe this time will be different’. Insert Lucy holding a football for Charlie Brown to kick.

No, no, no. None of that here. Doug Ford and his government are not honest brokers. Unless it’s in the backrooms with their donors. They do not, they never have, they are absolutely uninterested in candid, truthful discourse. They dissemble. They obfuscate. They poll extensively to bake in communications messaging that makes palatable otherwise unpopular policies and issues. Why else do you think we didn’t hear about the flipping of Greenbelt land over to developers during the campaign? Or the ‘outsourcing’ of medical procedures, even the easy-peazy ones like cataract surgery and hip and knee replacements? Because they would’ve been murdered at the polls. It might actually have got people out to vote.


They’re bulldozing ahead, well aware that the clock is ticking. They’ve really only got just over 3 years to get this up and going, instituted firmly enough so that subsequent governments have difficulty reversing course. Sure. We can talk about it with them. But they’re neither listening nor going to engage in any meaningful fashion.

So don’t act like they are. Don’t be a Martin Regg Cohn.

We all know Doug Ford. We know what he’s all about. We know he knows which side his bread’s buttered.

Nothing about Doug Ford’s time as an elected representative, 4 years as a Toronto city councillor and mayoral consigliere to his brother, the late Rob Ford, 4+ years as premier of the province, could lead any reasonable person to conclude that he has the best interests of Ontario residents at heart when it comes to health care. Not a single fucking thing. Zero. He remains in a court battle, trying to keep public sector workers’ – including nurses – wages capped. How many billions of dollars of Covid-relief funds is his government still sitting on, still unspent? Like Bill 124, ministerial mandate letters are tied up in the courts, these now sitting in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, in an effort not to make them public. So, we have no idea the plans the premier’s office has for the ministry of health. Willfully and intentionally so.

And we’re just supposed to trust him on this? Maybe this time Doug Ford is fair dealing? After being caught on tape assuring a roomful of developer donors that if elected his government would open up parts of the Greenbelt for development. In immediate damage control, he then took to social media to tell us that he’d heard us and there would be no way, scouts’ honour, that he would open any part of the Greenbelt to be developed. Re-elected, he opened up the Greenbelt for development.

Now he promises that regardless of what happens in terms of healthcare, we’ll always pay with our OHIP card, never our credit card. (You can actually hear the gears grinding in his comms team’s office, coming up with that beautiful talking point.) We’re supposed to take him on his word now? This time he’s being frank and forthright with us? Maybe he really wants to fix what ails our healthcare system after all!

Fool me once, fool me dozens of times.

Doug Ford represents the culmination of nearly 3 decades of a PCO-Liberal-PCO continuum that has slowly strangled the province’s healthcare system, nickel and diming it into its current skeletal state. As The Rabble pointed out this week, “Ontario has the lowest health care spending per capita of any province. The province spends $2,000 less per person per year than the average of the other provinces.” That’s the straight-up fact of the matter. That’s the status quo. That’s probably where we should begin this conversation, if a conversation is what we’re really going to have.

At this week’s press conference to announce the upcoming changes, the moving of 50% of non-essential surgeries to private clinics, Doug Ford actually spewed into the microphone that there were only two other countries in the world with healthcare systems like we have in Ontario. Cuba and North Korea. Setting aside the fact Cuba’s healthcare system is way down the list of issues that country faces, it’s bullshit, hopefully just something Ford pulled from his ass and not concocted by what is an otherwise crack(er) comms machine that is essentially the beating heart of this government, a rare misstep. This is not something a serious person seriously determined to make our health system better would seriously say.

Doug Ford is not serious.

Let’s stop tying ourselves into pretzels of logic pretending he is.

Let’s stop being Martin Regg Cohns.


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