Another year is in the books, and what a 2021 it has been.
The second year of the pandemic brought a major roller coaster of stories and events in Ontario. It included the historic rollout of safe and effective vaccines to guard against COVID-19. There were also many hiccups in that rollout, with some people frustrated at signing up for appointments and a vocal but small minority questioning the value of vaccines at all. There were vaccine mandates for workplaces, a stance on which both the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP had major policy reversals.
Premier Doug Ford and his government opened up public health restrictions in February and March despite science table advice, leading to a tearful apology in his late mother's backyard in April after cases spiked. The government also issued a U-turn on paid sick days after many months of opposition and expert criticism. Much to the consternation of parents across the province, schools shut down for months in the spring. There was also a major long-term care commission report and legislation for reforms, a major cabinet shuffle, the opioid epidemic raged on, and families with children who have autism remained frustrated by the lack of progress on the file.
Some PC MPPs left the caucus for pandemic-related reasons, including Roman Baber, who opposes some public health measures and has since expressed opposition to vaccine mandates, Rick Nicholls, who was turfed from the caucus for refusing to get vaccinated — which was revealed by QP Briefing reporting — and Lindsey Park, who left following her own vaccine controversy.
But despite all of this tumult, the opposition has struggled to gain traction. Andrea Horwath's NDP has seen its poll numbers sit in a narrow range, struggling to make a breakthrough, while Steven Del Duca is still largely unknown despite close to two years of leading the Liberals.
They hope to change that in the new year as the 2022 campaign continues to heat up, but the PC government has tried to frame debates by choosing building highways as a wedge issue and highlighting labour reforms.
All of which is to say that there's been a lot to react to, understand and be humbled by. At Queen's Park Briefing we hope our team has helped you understand Ontario and your place in it that much better this year as we sort through the fog of the pandemic, among other issues. Thanks to each and every reader for taking the time to read our journalism, and for reaching out with feedback too.
As of Dec. 23, we go into a modified holiday schedule until Jan. 4. That means we will be off from Dec. 24–28. From Dec. 29–31 we will provide one holiday briefing each day, a morning newsletter that will go out a bit later than usual. We won't have original stories in this time period unless breaking news occurs, like if the province announces significant new public health measures. We will return to our usual schedule on Jan. 4 with morning and afternoon briefings and daily original stories as of Jan. 4. Inside Queen's Park will resume on Jan. 12.
We'd also like to extend a happy holidays to all of our readers. We know that with all the concerns about the Omicron variant going around it can be a tense and uncertain time, and we wish that wasn't the case. Here's hoping that everyone can spend their holiday time in good health, and if not, that they have the love and support to pull through. It's a time to check in on loved ones and friends, and certainly a time to cherish all the moments that we are able to spend together.
From the QP Briefing team, here's to many lovely moments for you and yours over the holidays, and lots more to come in 2022.
David Hains, acting editor