Matt Elliott: Vaccination passports are Toronto’s best way to avoid more lockdowns — so why is no one doing anything about it?


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a scene from the first “Austin Powers” movie. Maybe you remember it. Mike Myers’ character has just fought his way into a secret facility. He’s commandeered a steamroller and is rolling toward Dr. Evil’s lair. Suddenly we see a wide-eyed security guard scream in horror as the steamroller approaches.

Cut to a wide shot. Turns out the steamroller is still a dozen yards away. And the steamroller is, of course, moving very slowly, as steamrollers do. The guy could easily move out of the way. But he doesn’t. He just watches it come, screaming all the while. Eventually he gets crushed.

Good gag. And, it turns out, a really apt metaphor for the way Premier Doug Ford’s government has acted at a bunch of points during this pandemic. After the first wave, the negative outcomes of COVID-19 in Ontario haven’t snuck up on Ford as much as they’ve slowly approached from a distance while the premier has mostly just stood around and waited.

I worry it’s happening again — that there’s another steamroller on the way.

Here’s what the scenario could look like. Ontario’s public health units have done a bang-up job of getting us vaccinated. But there’s a stubborn percentage that won’t get the shots. With variants circulating and Ontario reopening, it seems plausible this unvaccinated part of the population could give us escalating case counts and — the real red flag to worry about — increasing hospitalization numbers.

If that does happen, a return to general lockdowns would be really hard to take. Those of us who dutifully followed the rules for more than a year and got our shots at the first opportunity will rightly raise hell if this government moves to restrict us again. The obvious thing to do instead would be restrict activities based on vaccination status.

Leave the province largely open for people who have received their vaccines. Limit activities for those who have made the choice to leave themselves more vulnerable to a virus that could overwhelm the hospital system again. And protect those, like young children and people with legitimate diagnosed health conditions, who remain vulnerable to COVID-19 and aren’t able to get vaccinated.

But — whoops — Ontario doesn’t have a good way to do that. And a real solution does not seem to be forthcoming, with Ford ruling it out. The only physical proof I have of my vaccination record is a couple of paper receipts. No app. No card. No passport. Nothing I could quickly scan or tap upon entry to an event or business.

Maybe I’m overly worried, but I don’t think so. Just look at Toronto, where Toronto Public Health reports more than 70 per cent of the total population has at least one dose, and more than 60 per cent have two. But the gap between first and second doses is closing, and the number of Toronto residents receiving a first dose has slowed to a trickle.

Authorizations that would allow kids under 12 to get vaccinated would help goose the number. But realistically it’s hard to imagine Toronto’s vaccination rate across the entire population gets higher than 80 per cent anytime soon.