Tearful Ontario Premier Promises Sick Leave to Bridge Worker Gap
(Bloomberg) -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’s working on a plan to provide paid sick leave to workers, bowing to mounting pressure as Covid-19 continues to rage across Canada’s most-populous province.
The decision marks a reversal of course for the head of Ontario’s provincial government, who previously said existing federal leave benefits were sufficient.
“Unfortunately, Monday’s federal budget didn’t include important improvements to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit that we needed to see,” Ford said during a Thursday press conference outside his mother’s home at a Toronto suburb. “That’s why we’re now working on our own solution.”
A new plan will bridge a two-to-three day gap in which workers don’t get paid before federal aid kicks in, said Ford, who’s in isolation after a close staff member tested positive for the virus. The premier said it’s not lost on him that he’s able to continue working remotely while others are not. At one point, he had to pause to collect himself while describing the pressure lockdowns have caused Ontarians.
“For some it’s been dealing with isolation at home, the struggles with mental health and addiction,” he said. “For others it’s been going to work, despite the stress of working in a job that puts you and your loved ones in a higher risk of getting Covid. I hear it every day. Every single day.”
Ford has tried to appease the needs of business while responding to increasing demands from health officials for more sweeping shut-downs throughout the pandemic, often satisfying neither side. Earlier this week Toronto health officials said they will override looser provincial rules and close most workplaces with five or more confirmed cases of the virus.
Last week Ford implemented the most stringent measures to date, granting extraordinary powers to police to conduct random citizen stops. Backlash, including by police, prompted Ford to backtrack on the random checks amid concern they would disproportionately affect lower-income and racialized communities already hardest hit by the pandemic.
The decision was made in response to “extremely troubling modeling” showing the province could see 15,000 new cases daily without strict curbs on mobility, Ford said Thursday.
“We moved fast but we moved too fast. And I know that some of those measures, especially around enforcement, they went too far,” he said. “Simply put, we got it wrong. We made a mistake.”
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