Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Bob Brehl: Foes work together to flatten the curve

By 
  • April 11, 2020

I have many fond memories of my Uncle Frank from Coshocton, Ohio. He was my dad’s older brother, a lifelong Republican and an elegant man.

He and Aunt Ellen would often visit us on their way to her family’s cottage on Six Mile Lake near Port Severn. It was there that Uncle Frank patiently taught me how to waterski when I was nine years old.

One of my favourite memories of Uncle Frank is a spring morning when he drove me to school in his beautiful white Cadillac with red leather seats, power windows and air conditioning. He was an executive with General Electric. Back in the early 1970s, power windows and air conditioning were a rarity.

When we pulled up to Holy Cross, a bunch of my chums were in the playground before school and I effortlessly lowered the window and shouted at Tony Corrindia, Frank Soda and Tony Cornacchia. I felt like a “Big Man on Campus” when they came over to the car and asked if they could play with the power windows, too.

Uncle Frank, of course, allowed them the pleasure.

My father, from a large family, moved to Canada from the United States to marry my mother. He was the only one of nine siblings to leave the U.S. The vast majority of my first cousins are American and, to a certain degree, I’ve long envied them.

When I was young, they always got the newest toys a year or so before they’d come to Canada. They were from the country powerful enough to save us from the tyranny of fascism during the Second World War. Their country was the Super Power that could land men on the moon. Canada seemed quaint and rather insignificant by comparison, in my childhood mind.

During my life, I’ve always felt blessed and proud to be Canadian, especially on three occasions: when Paul Henderson scored the series-winning goal against the Russians in 1972; when Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and his team saved six Americans and got them out of Iran in 1980; and when Newfoundlanders opened their homes and welcomed so many stranded Americans in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

But I have never felt better — more proud — of Canada and its leaders than during this COVID-19 pandemic. It really is astonishing how politics has been pushed aside and all our leaders are working for Canada and Canadians. Have mistakes been made? Of course. But they’re working together, making decisions with all in mind during this unprecedented time.

My cousins stateside can’t say the same thing. It’s no wonder there are now about three times more confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. than in any other country in the world.

In Canada, it’s still a scary situation but it feels better seeing staunch Conservative premiers like Doug Ford and Jason Kenney align with Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, all fighting together to flatten the curve.

Alberta Premier Kenney, normally a hardened foe of Trudeau, tweeted during a first ministers teleconference call how he was “impressed by how (Canada) is coming together to fight this invisible enemy” and “moved by strong solidarity for Alberta’s double whammy: the COVID recession (and)  the energy price crash,” reports CBC News.

Or take the example of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland calling Ontario Premier Ford her “therapist” during the crisis, according to an article in the Toronto Star. Ford, normally a sparring partner with Liberals, returned praise for Freeland at one of his update news conferences and went as far as to say he would “never break ranks” with the prime minister or his fellow premiers in the midst of a crisis.

In the U.S., too much politics have gotten in the way. Its president even — not that long ago — said that COVID-19 was a hoax perpetrated by Democrats. He’s fumbled the ball over and over for months now.

And it’s not just him playing politics. At the time of writing this column, CBS News reports there are still eight U.S. states that have not issued stay-at-home or shelter-in-place directives for residents to help contain the spread of the deadly virus. All eight states have Republican governors.

Then look again at Ontario and our premier, who is often compared to the pugnacious president by those on the left side of the political spectrum. During this crisis, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone rational who has not thought Ford and his team are putting the health of all Ontarians ahead of all else.

Ford even had a few choice words for Trump after the president banned the export of N95 protective masks to Canada. “It’s like one of your family members (says), ‘OK, you go starve and we’ll go feast on the rest of the meal.’ I’m just so disappointed right now,” Ford said on April 4. “We have a great relationship with the U.S. and they pull these shenanigans? Unacceptable.”

I hope my extended family in the U.S. all make it through this storm and that the entire country and world returns to normal with as few deaths as possible. Uncle Frank was always an American first, then a Republican. I’m glad he’s not around to see petty politics play out ahead of health and safety.

(Brehl is a Toronto writer and author of many books.)

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