Friday, May 14, 2021

The Road To Infantilization


If one were to judge by the fervour with which Canadians are availing themselves of vaccines to stop the spread of Covid-19, one would classify ours as a very mature response. Certainly, there will always be pockets of resistance among the anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy buffs, but on the whole, we are eager for the protection offered by these modern-day miracles of medicine.

Alas, the same cannot be said for our neighbours to the south. While it is true they have a much larger proportion of both partially and fully-vaccinated citizens, the problem becomes apparent when looking at those who have not been vaccinated and apparently are not keen to get the jab.

And this is where the real story begins. How to convince the other 50% of eligible Americans to get the vaccine? Time for a couple of carrots.

The first carrot is the appeal to renewed freedom. As the new CDC guidelines state, if you are fully vaccinated, you can begin to live normally again. 

  • You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
  • You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.

Oh, sweet liberty.

But what to do about those for whom such promises do not move the resistance dial?

How about a bigger carrot? Unfortunately, it is this larger-sized vegetable that, in my view, represents an infantilization of the population. And its message is a simple one: if you are good boys and girls and get the vaccine, you will be eligible for some nice treats.

For example, West Virginia will give $100 savings bonds to 16- to 35-year-olds who get a Covid-19 vaccine, Gov. Jim Justice said.

It would seem that money talks. Researchers found that

a third of the unvaccinated population said a cash payment would make them more likely to get a shot. The benefits were largest for those in the group getting $100, which increased willingness (34 percent said they would get vaccinated) by six points over the $25 group.

But there is much, much more on offer. Here is a sampling:

Illinois became the latest state to join the trend when it announced Thursday it will be doling out 50,000 free theme park tickets to anyone who has been vaccinated through a partnership with Six Flags Great America (the tickets are valued at a combined cost of $4 million).

 This comes after Ohio rolled out a similarly eye-popping incentive on Wednesday: A $1 million prize for five vaccinated residents chosen at random in a weekly lottery.

In New York, inoculated individuals can choose from a whole host of benefits, including free 7-day metro cards, tickets to sports games and some of the city’s key attractions (the Bronx Zoo, Brooklyn Botanical Garden and Lincoln Center) and, as of Thursday, free food from burger joint Shake Shack.

Indeed, even the mayor of New York is getting in on the act. If this is not childish, please tell me what it is:

Makes you want to go to New York for your second shot, eh? But wait, there's more!

While not ruling out cash prizes, New Jersey is currently offering a “shot and beer” program which rewards the newly inoculated with a free beer at participating breweries through the rest of this month, while Connecticut is also offering a free drink “on them” for residents who get vaccinated in May.

There are other states offering inducements as well, but I think you get the picture. Even the private sector is getting involved. Krispy Kreme, for example, is offering a free glazed doughnut, while Budweiser is offering debit cards for free beer. 

Are any of these measures ill-advised? Of course not, if they get more needles into arms. They are, however, a rather sobering reminder to all of us that human evolution clearly has a long, long way to go before we can truly call ourselves an advanced species.



Wednesday, May 12, 2021



Having absolutely no patience with those who reflexively and shrilly denounce public health measures as attacks on their freedom (as if freedom were an absolute), I took real delight in reading this business owner's response to a bad review based on his insistence that all customers wear masks when entering his bakery:

This classy response, one hopes (but does not expect), will induce at least a modicum of shame in the reviewer. Should you be interested in how Twitter favorably responded to Etzinger's post, click here.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Timely And Relevant

 A nice follow-up to yesterday's post:

H/t Theo Moudakis

As well, Bob Coupland of Oakville expresses some timely sentiments:

Ford government’s planning entrenches sprawl at expense of environment

I just heard the term “The Big Sprawl,” and it alarmed me to hear that between now and July 1, 2022, the Doug Ford government is forcing every Greater Golden Horseshoe municipality to rush through planning decisions to lock in 30 more years of outdated and environmentally damaging residential, commercial and industrial sprawl.

It seems to me that this goes hand in hand with their attitude towards the building of Highway 413, the appointment of Norm Sterling as head of the Greenbelt Council, and the rampant use of MZOs (Ministerial Zoning Orders), decisions that are designed to make developers and land speculators even wealthier.

Policies of this sort are heavy-handed and dictatorial, blatantly harmful, unnecessary, and not what the people of Ontario want.

It’s time to stop urban boundary expansions, and firmly and forever protect farmland and natural areas.

It appears that Doug Ford's attempt to use the Covid crisis as an opportunity for misdirection while he enriches his developer cronies is not wholly successful, eh?

Thursday, May 6, 2021

An Assault On The Olfactory Cells


To paraphrase a character from the play Hamlet, something is rotten in the state of Ontario.

And one needn't be a master detective to trace its source. Indeed, it is perhaps to state the obvious to conclude that Doug Ford is in the thrall of, and debt to, the developers. 

Let's consider the evidence. First, of course, is the infamous video that emerged during Ontario's last election campaign.

Despite Ford's later walking back those comments somewhat, the image of an ideologue bent on development at all costs has stuck. And as I pointed out in a recent post, his appointment of Norm Sterling, the failed environment minister under Mike Harris, to head the Greenbelt Council solidified that image.

But there is much more to Ford's entanglement with those who would blithely pave over environmentally-sensitive areas of the province, and thanks to steadfast journalism, the arrows pointing to the premier's indebtedness to those interests (not to mention conflict of interest and possible corruption) are becoming increasingly obvious.

The Toronto Star has brought its usual investigative rigour to all of this, and I will excerpt just a small part to get to the pertinent elements. 

The RCMP is investigating a group that launched an ad campaign attacking Ontario teachers last year.

Vaughan Working Families took out full-page ads in the Star and other major newspapers in February 2020 in advance of province-wide teachers’ strikes.

The ads were an apparent contravention of the Election Finances Act, according to Elections Ontario, because Vaughan Working Families had failed to register as a third party.

Of particular note is the fact that these ads appeared while Ford's government was in contract talks, led by education minister Stephen Lecce, with Ontario teachers. And just who is associated with the group behind the ads?

Vaughan Working Families is associated with developer Michael DeGasperis, founder of Vaughan-based Arista Homes and CEO of TACC Construction.

That would be the same DeGasperis who owns land along the proposed corridor and stands to greatly benefit from the Highway 413 development, an environmental disaster-in-waiting that Ford and his cronies have been vigorously pushing.

If built, the road will raze 2,000 acres of farmland, cut across 85 waterways and pave nearly 400 acres of protected Greenbelt land in Vaughan. It would also disrupt 220 wetlands and the habitats of 10 species-at-risk, according to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

The full extent of the government's ties with DeGasperis and others is probably not knowable at this point, but it is noteworthy that shortly after the 413 proposal was resurrected (the previous Liberal government had shelved it), 

DeGasperis hosted Ford and Lecce, before he was education minister, in a private luxury suite at an NHL game in Florida in Dec. 2018.

Spokespeople for Ford and Lecce have said both politicians paid for their own tickets to the game and no government business was discussed.

No word on who paid for the transportation to Florida. 

Obviously, there is much more to be uncovered, but for now, the stench from Queens Park is becoming intolerable. Unfortunately, the opportunity for a through airing-out has to wait until June of 2022, when Ontario's next election is scheduled.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Pensée Du Jour

Nothing profound, other than to say it is good to know that amongst the provinces, Ontario is not alone in its government's ineptitude.

H/t Theo Moudakis

Monday, May 3, 2021

Something To Savour

I generally don't like the heavy hand of authority, but I make an exception in this situation.

See what you think.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Putting The Fox In Charge Of The Henhouse

 .... is the metaphor NDP environment critic Sandy Shaw uses to describe Doug Ford's appointment of Norm Sterling to head the Greenbelt Council in Ontario. 

Sterling, whose reputation as environment under Mike Harris was anything but, would seem to be an odd choice to head the Council only if one were unaware of the contempt Ford has shown for any obstacles impeding the enrichment of his many developer friends.

Sterling replaces David Crombie, who resigned in November over the province’s controversial limiting of local conservation authorities’ ability to deny development permits for sensitive lands. Crombie called the moves by Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government “high-level bombing” that “needs to be resisted.”

Sterling’s appointment set off a new wave of criticism for the Ford government, which has frequently used ministerial zoning orders to force particular development approvals and is pushing to build Highway 413 through parts of the Greenbelt, a band of protected farmland, forests, rivers and lakes.

The Opposition NDP noted Sterling voted in 2005 against the creation of the Greenbelt.

Sterling's pathetic record speaks for itself:

In 1995, Sterling faced criticism for slashing the Environment Ministry’s budget by 40 per cent while arguing that “implementing stronger environmental policies” would counter the funding loss.

Later, the Walkerton tainted water inquiry concluded that Harris-era cuts led to the end of lab testing for municipalities in 1996 and helped set the stage for the 2000 disaster that killed seven people and sickened thousands of others. 

As public attention remains fixed on the Covid crisis, it is likely the Ford braintrust believes now is the ideal time to slip one past us; however, people are paying attention. Says Toronto Councilor Gord Perks:

“I have no hesitation saying that I’ve been watching environment ministers going way back and will say without hesitation that Norm was the most anti-environmental of them all”.

“The step down from (former Toronto mayor) David Crombie to Norm Sterling is to step down from somebody who cares to somebody who will actively wreck things.”

But Sterling rejects such criticism with a "nothing-to-see-here" dismissal:

“My motives are to give future generations the freedom to make decisions about where our province is going with regard to resources,” Sterling said.

And with obvious contempt for the public's intelligence, he asserts that we can have our cake and eat it too:

In terms of his plans for protecting the Greenbelt, given the pressure from housing developers, Sterling said it’s a difficult problem, but he believes he’ll find solutions.

“We can do it … we can retain the best parts of our natural resources, but we also have to be concerned about how we’re going to provide people with places to live. We’re going to have to listen to a lot of people to advise us on how we might do this,” Sterling said. 

Given both Sterling's past record and the ideological bent of the current government, there is little doubt as to who he will be listening to most.

Ontario, as has become the norm under Doug Ford and the gang, continues to be in deep, deep trouble.