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Ontario Hansard - 22-February2021

COVID-19 RESPONSE


Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, my next question is also for the Premier.

It’s bad enough that the Premier is ignoring the advice of experts and plowing ahead with an ill-advised reopening, but at the same time he’s ignoring the recommendations that these experts are making in order to keep people safe. For example: The Premier refuses to put in place paid sick days. He refuses to put in place a cap on class sizes in schools. He refuses to stop evictions from happening until the end of the pandemic. Yet these are all measures that the experts are saying the government should be putting in place.

Why is it that not only is this Premier reopening the way that he is—against advice—but he’s also not undertaking the measures that are recommended to stop the spread of the variants of concern?


Hon. Doug Ford: Mr. Speaker, thanks to our Minister of Labour, myself—for advocating the federal government to change the program. We all know, since September, there’s $1.1 billion sitting there because I advocated for it. They only spent 319—now they’ve switched it. I want to thank the federal government for switching it.

Rather than always looking at doom and gloom, “the world is coming to an end”—we must be doing something right, because per 100,000 active cases, Ontario has the lowest outside the Maritime provinces, with 70 cases, compared to the average of 83 in Canada, 97 in Quebec, 108 in Alberta, 88 in BC, 142 in Saskatchewan, 86 in Manitoba and 83 in Newfoundland. There must be something going in the right direction here, thanks to the people and thanks to the chief medical officer and his team.

Interjection.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for York Centre will come to order.

Leader of the Opposition, supplementary.


Ms. Andrea Horwath: Perhaps the Premier is not aware, but 60% of Ontario workers do not have access to paid sick days. In fact, 70% of those workers are basically our essential workers. They’re the lowest-income workers in our province.

Here in this chamber, every one of us can take a day off sick if we need to. We have paid sick days. We don’t have to worry about missing money on our paycheque if we’re taking a day off sick.

So my question to the Premier is, if it’s good for everybody here, if it’s okay for MPPs to take a day off sick and not have a pay deduction, why isn’t it okay for our most important essential front-line workers?

1040


Hon. Doug Ford: Mr. Speaker, that’s why the NDP is never going to form government, simple as that. They have two programs here: You have the federal program, and then what the leader of the NDP wants is for me to double dip into people’s pockets when there’s a program working—and it’s working well now—and just ask them to pay more in taxes. You can’t have it both ways.

Do you know something? We still have to be prudently fiscally responsible to all the taxpayers in this province, and we aren’t about to duplicate it. They have a great program now. Rather than confusing people and contradicting and double-speaking, why don’t you just tell people the truth? That is—


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to ask the Premier to withdraw.

Hon. Doug Ford: I’ll withdraw.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.

Final supplementary.


Ms. Andrea Horwath: When there’s little uptake to a program, it’s because the program doesn’t work, and that is the problem that we have. It’s compounded by the fact that this Premier is shirking his responsibilities to provide paid sick days to workers, particularly during a global pandemic, but it’s exactly what we’ve seen from this government all along.

The train wreck is coming with the variants of concern, but this government is failing to listen to the advice of doctors, of public health experts, of chief medical officers at the federal level, of the public health agencies of our province. Vulnerable and essential workers deserve and need sick pay. People need supports to get through this next wave that’s coming.

The question is, why is the government ignoring all of this advice, heading us into another lockdown, more sickness and more spread of COVID-19?


Hon. Doug Ford: I have no problem with the Leader of the Opposition saying it to me. I have skin on me like an alligator. It will roll right off my back. What the Leader of the Opposition is criticizing is Dr. Williams. She says, “Listen to the chief medical officer,” but the same group voted against him when we wanted to renew him until we got through this pandemic. So either you’re with the docs, which I am, or you’re against the docs. You can’t have it both ways.

When the Leader of the Opposition is criticizing any decision, what she’s doing is criticizing Dr. Williams and a couple hundred other doctors, and all the public health medical officers in each region, because we don’t make a decision without getting the buy-in from the medical officers of health—local ones. That’s the reason Toronto is still in lockdown. That’s the reason Peel is still in lockdown, because we listen to the public health units.

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