April Column - John Yakabuski

Published on April 20, 2020

Unprecedented! This single word is an apt way to describe what we and the world are dealing with during this COVID-19 outbreak. While there are many other adjectives that could also be used, I am absolutely certain that we have never seen anything like this before.

History will tell us that the Spanish influenza of 1918 was responsible for the deaths of at least 50 million people, but that was over a century ago. Some will remember the Great Depression and the impact that it had on the economy and their lives, but while the damage was lasting, it was economic and not health related. More recently, I can speak to the ice storm of 1998, 9/11, SARS in 2003 and the recession of 2008-09. But none of these events, not even combined, smashed us right square in the teeth like COVID-19.

There is no one anywhere that has not been impacted one way or another by this virus. It has left a trail of destruction around the world and put some economies on the brink of collapse, and we have not been spared here in Canada and indeed Ontario.

Our government acted quickly to do everything it could, using all the tools in the toolbox to slow down the spread and flatten the curve. I can assure you that every step we have taken, every decision we have made, every restriction we have implemented has been based upon the protection of our citizens first.

But this has not come without a price. In order to help protect you the people from this insidious virus, it has been necessary to pause large segments of our economy. As a result, people are hurting and we know it. Believe me, as your government, that hurts us. We have recognized the reality of these decisions.

At all levels, governments have come forward with assistance and stimulus programs to help those affected get through this crisis and aid in the recovery, which we all hope and pray will be soon. I know that people want to get back to their normal again and we want that too. Those in the workforce who are not working now as a result of COVID-19 want to go back to work. They want to be part of the recovery. We want that too. This will happen and as your government we will lead in that recovery. However, it is our responsibility to ensure that it is done in a way that minimizes further risk to our people. Doing it right will ensure that the recovery is continuous and robust because making Ontario stronger than ever is our goal.

We have great faith in our citizens. They are strong! Together with them and their resolve, we will emerge from this changed but stronger.

To all of you who have done your part following the guidance of health officials to help stop this spread – Thank You. You have made a difference. To all of you on the front lines who have kept us going – health care workers, first responders, grocery store and pharmacy workers, those working in our long-term care and retirement homes, truck drivers and everyone else who has been part of delivering the goods and services deemed essential – Thank You, Thank You! May God Bless us all and keep us well.

- John Yakabuski