Transcript: Ep. 48 - School's out for summer in Ontario | May 19, 2020

STEVE:
Welcome, everybody,
to the #onpoli podcast.
I'm Steve Paikin.
JOHN MICHAEL:
And I'm John Michael McGrath.
STEVE:
Some big developments today
for the oldest and the
youngest among us.
For the oldest-- the provincial
government today announced
it would strike an
independent commission
to look into the long-term care
home crisis in the province.
For the youngest--
the school year in
the classroom is history
and so is sleepover
summer camp, too.
Here's how it's all shaking out
on this Tuesday, May 19th 2020.
So, let's get to it.

Well, we suspected this day was
coming and now it is confirmed--
classes for Ontario's
two million students
will not be reconvening in June.
MAN:
That is why, today,
following the advice of the
chief medical officer of health,
that public and private
schools will remain closed
until the end of June.
STEVE:
JMM, give us the deets.
JOHN MICHAEL:
School isn't quite
out for summer.
The government would want us
to say that, you know,
students still have their work
that they've been
doing remotely for,
well, all this time since the
pandemic closed schools
and they will continue
to have to do that work
and there will be report cards.
But there will be no physical
students in physical classrooms
until September, it looks like.
The government is going to
have some announcement
on what the next
school year will look like
before the end of June.
We don't know, currently,
what it's going to be for--
what it's going to mean, rather,
for students to go to
school in September.
Are they all going to need
to get their
temperatures checked daily?
What kind of spacing rules
are there going to be?
You know,
these kinds of questions,
we just don't have the
answers for right now.
But the long and
short of it is, yeah,
kids will not be going
back to their schools
for the rest of
this school year.
This, of course,
follows similar announcements
from other provinces,
including Quebec.
And the next thing
for parents...
(Chuckling)
...including, I will say,
myself in a self-interested way,
childcare centres
may or may not open
as part of stage two.
We, as people remember, just
entered stage one today.
So, that means that
stage two is really no closer
than 14 days away
and could be further.
STEVE:
Well, if they want to
reopen this economy,
they're going to have
to figure something out
on childcare centres because--
we just, in fact,
taped a program on this
for the Agenda for tonight.
This is what they call
a 'she session',
meaning that it has had
a disproportionately
economic negative
influence on women,
unlike all of the previous
recessions that we've had.
And given that women are -
I mean, stats show it -
they are bearing a
disproportionate burden
of childcare responsibilities
and, as a result,
if they want to get this
economy going again,
they gotta figure out childcare,
wouldn't you say?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Absolutely, and the
Minister of Education has,
more or less,
said that that is how
they are thinking
about this issue.
They understand that parents
can't, realistically,
go back to work until there is
some kind of childcare option.
But, you know,
it's a tough question
because the--
(Chuckling)
--the issue of how
you get kids into
what is effectively a
congregate care setting
that carries a lot
of the same risks
as we have talked about in other
congregate care settings,
like nursing homes,
like long-term care homes,
like homeless shelters.
The fundamental dynamic of
having a bunch of people
in a crowded single space
is not really that different.
It's just that we're talking
about young people
and not elderly, infirm,
or homeless people.
Really tough problem for
the government to solve.
I don't think
anybody's confident
that we know what the
answer will be right now.
STEVE:
Mm-hmm. Now, the Premier also
had some very unwelcome news
for those young people
hoping to get away
to sleepover camps this summer.
What's the story there?
JOHN MICHAEL:
It is not happening. (Chuckling)
The Premier, you know,
said that they just can't safely
anticipate what would happen
at sleepover camps.
Day camps may be allowed
if the curve
continues to flatten
or hopefully continue
dropping a bit more.
That may be allowed
in July and August.
But for now,
sleepover camps are not going
to be allowed this summer.
As we have discussed before,
probably the person who is going
to give the Premier most hell
about this is his young nephew.
STEVE:
You got that right.
He's been the number one
lobbyist on this file
for the last couple of months.
I know he's going to be
disappointed to hear it.
I've actually heard from
a few camp directors already
who are truly disappointed
with what they consider is a
short-sighted decision.
I'm trying to imagine
the prospects now
of hundreds of thousands
of young Ontarians
hanging out at
the mall this summer
or, you know, I mean, they're
going to be in cities,
if they're not going
away to summer camp,
and it's hard to imagine
that that is going to be,
you know, a situation where
physical distancing
can be respected and
protocols followed.
Is there any indication
that the government
may reconsider this decision,
if, say, John Michael,
things were to dramatically
improve in June and July?
You know, curves flatten.
Could they maybe open
summer camp just for August?
JOHN MICHAEL:
I mean, in theory, they could,
but I think the government
is really reluctant
to go back on these
kinds of announcements.
They are trying,
as much as possible,
to give parents and
businesses and everyone else
some degree of certainty
in a very uncertain time.
So, you know,
it is possible, in theory,
that the government
could change its mind
and, you know,
some time in July, say,
if we saw dramatic
improvement in case numbers
and infections go way down,
maybe the government could say,
"Okay, hey, you know what?
"You can have a short
summer camp season
"for a few weeks in august
"before school returns
after Labour Day."
I wouldn't put a
lot of hope on that.
STEVE:
Now, from the youngest to
the oldest Ontarians,
opposition critics have been
calling for a full-blown
public inquiry to look into
the long-term care sector.
ANDREA HORWATH:
A government commission is
simply not good enough.
If the Premier is truly
committed to getting answers
and ensuring all
voices are heard,
why is he refusing to commit
to an independent
public inquiry?
STEVE:
And as we can tell, the
opposition leader Andrea Horwath
is not happy with where
the government landed.
Which is where,
exactly, John Michael?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Earlier today,
the government announced
that they would be creating an
independent commission
into the long-term care sector.
This is distinct from
a public inquiry
that the NDP are calling for.
The difference may
seem kind of abstract
to some of our listeners.
But a public inquiry's powers
are spelled out
really clearly in law.
It's a very wide-ranging and it
can be a very powerful tool
when the government wants an
independent source of advice
or investigation when
something has gone wrong.
A independent commission,
things really depend a lot more
on what the government
of the day wants.
It's the government
that writes what are called
'the terms of reference' -
this is sort of the road map
for how an independent
commission operates,
what witnesses it can call,
what, even, subjects it's
allowed to look into.
All of those decisions really
are left to the government.
So, the NDP see that as,
you know, insufficient.
They want a much broader,
much more thoroughgoing
public inquiry.
This is, I think,
a very common dynamic
between opposition parties
and governments,
not just the current one.
They are-- sorry, the NDP
are forcing a vote
on a motion at
Queen's Park this afternoon,
as we record this,
that is calling on the
government to, in fact,
go with a public inquiry
and not the independent
commission they've talked about.
But it's worth saying
to our listeners that,
in this context, they could have
a full vote at Queen's Park
in support of an
independent commission
and it still
couldn't actually force
the government to do anything.
The public inquiry can only be
called by the government;
the MPPs can't force them to.
STEVE:
I guess we should say
for the record
that the Premier's
position on this
is that public inquiries, while
they are good for some things,
they can also take
a very long time,
and it is the Premier's position
that he wants something
that will report back sooner.
The reaction to that,
as you've already indicated,
from the official opposition,
has been pretty negative.
All the opposition parties
at Queen's Park
want the full-blown
public inquiry,
not just an independent
commission, so-called.
The Service Employees
Intentional Union, SCIU,
which tend to staff many
of the long-term care homes,
they are dissatisfied.
They would rather have the
full-blown public inquiry.
And I think maybe
we should leave--
we should leave the last word on
this to Randy Hillier,
who is the once-upon-a-time
Conservative MPP for--
oh my gosh, where are we here?
Lanark something? Kingston?
I don't know. Something
in Eastern Ontario.
JOHN MICHAEL:
Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston,
I think.
STEVE:
I knew you would know.
Well done.
He's now, of course,
having been turfed from the PC
caucus and independent.
And what did he have to
say about all of this?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Randy Hillier tweeted
earlier today,
"An independent commission will
be just smoke and mirrors
"to hide the truth and facts.
"Government appointees,
government terms of reference
"and no accountability."
So, you know,
a lot of opposition,
dissatisfaction with this idea.
Unfortunately
for the opposition,
as I've already said,
they don't really have a lever
to use against the government,
except for public opinion.
(Mellow music playing)
STEVE:
Let's take a quick final look
now at the federal scene,
where Prime Minister
Trudeau today announced
that he would
expand the criteria
of who's eligible
to receive the CEBA,
that is the Canada Emergency
Business Account.
What's the change there?
JOHN MICHAEL:
So, this has been a program
that far more, I think,
than the CERB
or the wage subsidy,
has really attracted
a lot of criticism
from the people who it's
actually intended to help.
Lots of small businesses
all over the country
have put up signs
in their windows saying,
"CEBA won't save us"
because it was seen
as really being tailored
to a very specific
type of business,
when a lot of businesses
just didn't match
the qualifications that
Ottawa had put out.
So, some changes to that today.
We'll see how many people
it can now help.
But the biggest change is
that sole proprietors -
that is a single business owner
who owns and operates
their own business -
will now be allowed to apply,
including businesses
that rely on contractors.
So, one of the examples the
Prime Minister provided
in his prepared remarks today
was the idea of a hair salon,
owned and operated
by a single person,
but renting out chairs to
independent contractors -
the stylists - who then, you
know, can take appointments
or otherwise work for the salon,
but aren't
technically employees.
So, those are
kinds of businesses
that CEBA will now
be allowed to help,
as well as family owned
corporations
that pay employees
through dividends
rather than strictly
through payroll -
another type of small business
that Ottawa is going
to be helping today.
STEVE:
And we should just
take one more moment
to talk about something the
Prime Minister addressed today
because you and I,
on this podcast last week,
both gave him hell.
Am I allowed to say that?
"H-E-double-hockey-sticks",
that's what we used
to say in Hamilton.
We both gave him
'H-E-double-hockey-sticks'
for the fact that many
of his answers lately
have seemed to have been very
vague or muddled or evasive.
But today...
(Chuckling)
Full credit where it's due,
I gotta give him full marks
for dodging a question.
He was asked what he thought
about President Donald Trump
taking hydroxychloroquine
as a preventative measure,
so that the President
would not get Covid-19.
I'm sure we all imagined
what the Prime Minister
could have said in
answer to that question,
might have said,
maybe wanted to have said.
But what did he, in fact say?
JOHN MICHAEL:
It was a nice example
of a politician
not answering the
question that was asked
and yet leaving us really
no doubt, I think,
what he actually thinks.
The Prime Minister dodged
the question entirely,
saying that...
JUSTIN TRUDEAU:
I will continue to follow advice
of medical professionals
and implore every Canadian
to follow the best advice
of our medical health experts.
JOHN MICHAEL:
You can understand the Prime
Minister reluctance
to directly take a
poke at the President.
Obviously, keeping relationships
between the US and Canada
on the up-and-up is,
more or less,
job number one for any
Canadian prime minister.
STEVE:
Maybe a good idea to,
in this case, fudge it a bit,
just so we don't
get a re-enactment
of the War of 1812.
Yeah. So, on this one, we're
gonna cut him some slack, right?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Yes. And we should also mention,
just in the context of
US/Canadian relations,
the previously announced and the
continuing border closure
between the US and Canada -
a total prohibition
on any nonessential travel -
that has been extended
to June 21st.
So, lots of support from
both Premier Ford
and other premiers
for that decision.
They were concerned that the
border might reopen too quickly.
But at least another
month of border closures
between the US and Canada.
STEVE:
Very good.
We always conclude this podcast
with our favourite
quotes of the day,
and we'll have those
immediately after
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JOHN MICHAEL:
And I'm @jm_mgrath.
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Here now, my quote of the day.
Premier Ford is still
getting questions
about whether he's prepared
to freeze commercial rents
and residential rents
during this pandemic.
He continues to say no.
But today, at his afternoon
press conference,
he still had some
pretty harsh words
for the province's landlords,
specifically, in this case,
commercial landlords.
DOUG FORD:
Don't push me.
These big landlords
want to take advantage
of small little companies and
people that are struggling?
I'm going to come down on them
like they've never seen before.
Cooperate.
It's not going to be forever.
It's going to be
for a few months.
Help people out.
You have an obligation
to do that as a landlord.
JOHN MICHAEL:
That's Premier Doug Ford
warning landlords
not to try his patience on this.
STEVE:
And now, my quote
of the day, JMM.
And for that, we go back
to the government's plans
to call for an
independent commission,
rather than a full-blown
public inquiry
into the long-term
care home sector.
Here is how the
Premier described
why he went for the former
and not the latter.
DOUG FORD:
I'm not going to sit here and
wait for two and a half,
three and a half years
for an inquiry
to give us recommendations.
I'm responsible
at the end of the day
to make sure we get the answers.
And we've been
fully transparent,
absolutely fully transparent
when it comes to,
um, long-term care
in this whole crisis.
We need answers now,
and it's gonna be
fully transparent.
Anything I see, Mike,
the people are going to see.
STEVE:
Doug Ford on an
independent commission,
rather than a full-blown
public inquiry.
Okay, John Michael,
that's it for us today.
Shall we do it again tomorrow?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Absolutely, Steve.
See you tomorrow.

Watch: Ep. 48 - School's out for summer in Ontario