As Ontario Premier Doug Ford plans to announce the reopening of the province on Monday, Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca criticized the lockdowns, despite pushing for them.
Del Duca told CP24 that he "urged" premier Doug Ford to reopen small businesses. He added: "Small business owners and their employees have been devastated by closures, all the while their Big Box competition has held near-monopolies on the economy."
However, this is not consistent with statements he made in the fall of 2020, when COVID-19 cases were on the rise. Del Duca previously called for lockdowns to be implemented in October, November, and December.
In October, Del Duca called for the closure of certain businesses including restaurants and gyms, something which Premier Doug Ford ended up doing.
"I am calling on Ford to follow the advice of Toronto Public Health, The Ontario Hospital Association and the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario –three organizations who represent tens of thousands of front-line health care workers in this province – to immediately suspend indoor dining at restaurants and bars and close gyms for 28 days in COVID-19 hotspots," Del Duca said in October.
That 28-day partial lockdown in the fall proved to be very unpopular amongst Ontarians, causing Doug Ford to adopt a new colour coded system that allowed for businesses to safely stay open. Del Duca, however, was also critical of that, saying in a statement, "Doug Ford has caved to political pressure from his caucus and put lives at risk. Despite skyrocketing COVID-19 infections, Doug Ford has chosen to relax restrictions in Peel Region."
Del Duca also called for strict lockdown measures in November, when Ontario was reporting over 1500 cases per day. Back then, he said "We need urgent action now, including a 28-day targeted lockdown in Toronto, Peel and York Region."
His lockdown proposal included the closing of "non essential" businesses while saying nothing about big box stores, which have been allowed to operate throughout the lockdown.
While Del Duca is now criticizing the province-wide lockdown for having done harm to small businesses, he said back in December that it was "long overdue" and should have started sooner, something which would have prevented businesses earning profits from the Christmas season.
"Doug Ford’s overdue lockdown won’t start for another five days. This is five full days of new infections and more lost family members. This lockdown should have been announced when it was decided on yesterday, taking effect at midnight today" said Del Duca on December 21.
Del Duca's flip-flop hypocrisy might come as a surprise to some, but not to those who follow Ontario politics. This is because he tends to criticize everything Doug Ford does, he even criticized the cheesecake video Ford made during the first wave of the pandemic.
The Liberals with Del Duca as their leader are failing to gain support from Ontarians. A recent poll by Campaign Research found that the Ontario Liberals are trailing in third place at 21 percent of support, and would only win 13 seats if an election was held today. Doug Ford's PCs would win 87, Andrea Horwarth's NDP would win 24, and the Greens would win 1.
Steven Del Duca also does not have a seat in the Ontario legislature, as he lost his seat to Micheal Tibollo in the 2018 Ontario election. This means that he isn't able to directly question the Premier. Del Duca might run in his former riding of Vaughan-Woodbridge in the 2022, however, 338 Canada projects that if an election was held today, Del Duca would be heavily loose that race on top of losing the election as a whole.
The next Ontario election is scheduled for June 2, 2022, however Ontario Liberals are concerned that Doug Ford will call the election earlier to take advantage of his high popularity. That move would likely be a blow to Del Duca's Liberals.