Doug Ford says there's no reason for Ontario to mandate paid sick days
Contrary to the advice of labour and public health experts all over the world, Ontario Premier Doug Ford says that compensating low-income, frontline workers for their wages in the case that they are forced to self-isolate on account of COVID-19 isn't necessary.
His rationale? The feds are already offering $500 a week to anyone in Canada who falls ill with the coronavirus — a whopping $450 per week after taxes, for a maximum of two weeks — and participation so far hasn't been great.
"If the system is not working, and that's what I'm hearing from the media... If people don't feel they are getting it quick enough, then we need to change the program," said Ford of the federal benefit during a press conference in Vaughan on Monday.
"And if they need to top it up a little more because $500 a week isn't feasible, then we change it" continued the premier addressing one criticism of the wage replacement program but failing to acknowledge that applicants must still wait at times for weeks to access the funds.
"Let's be very, very clear there's no reason for the province to jump in there when less than 27 per cent of the overall program hasn't been taken up."
Toronto's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Mayor John Tory, and entire Board of Health — who today passed a motion formally asking the province to ensure 10 paid sick days for all workers during infectious disease emergencies such as this one — would beg to differ.
If there is one thing that Doug Ford has shown he is willing to respect, its the vote of Toronto city hall... https://t.co/V7vOuYFF5P— Sam Wollenberg (@samwollenberg) January 18, 2021
"As many businesses and employers as possible should be offering sick leave protection to workers who need to go get tested, and who then in turn if they test positive need time off work," said Tory during a pandemic briefing last week.
"But those who don't have that through their employment are reluctant to get tested today, and in many cases are going to work sick, and in some cases are being encouraged to go to work sick, and thereby are spreading the virus."
Tory reiterated his support for paid sick days this afternoon after Ford's press conference, telling reporters that "this is an urgent issue that is causing people to go to work sick" and that "it is not right."
The mayor is far from alone in his criticism of how both the federal and provincial governments have handled this issue so far, but Ford's comments on Monday afternoon struck many as particularly egregious.
"Actually, the Employment Standards Act is provincial legislation and 100 per cent your purview (as you should know, as you've deliberately eroded it since entering office)," wrote the Toronto Drop-in Network on Twitter this afternoon in response to Ford's controversial comments.
"You're not 'jumping in'; you're performing your elected duty by legislating paid sick days."
Doug Ford sees “no reason” for paid sick days?— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) January 18, 2021
Disagree. Here are some reasons:
🍞 Putting food on the table
😷 Not accidentally giving your coworkers, clients, customers or patients #COVID19. https://t.co/7hUnd8fF46
"'No reason' when ppl have been telling you, five billion of them, that paid sick leave is JUST what they need to be able to choose home (not work) especially with no workplace oversight," wrote another Ontarian responding to a news article about the premier's remarks.
Opposing politicians who've been crying foul for months over a lack of protection for frontline workers are once again calling Ford out for ignoring the advice of experts, arguing that his lack of action is endangering the lives of Ontario residents.
"Doug Ford sees 'no reason' for paid sick days? Disagree. Here are some reasons," tweeted NDP and official opposition leader Andrea Horwath. "Rent, putting food on the table, bills, not accidentally giving your coworkers, clients, customers or patients #COVID19."
"How many times do public health experts, doctors, and opposition politicians need to say it? Ontarians need #PaidSickLeave now," tweeted Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca similarly. "[Ford] needs to stop dithering and make it happen."
"In 2018, Doug Ford eliminated the requirement to provide paid sick days, leaving workers to choose between their health and putting food on the table," reads a website linked to in Del Duca's tweet. "In 2020, during a global pandemic, he's doubled-down on his anti-sick day policy."
Without paid sick leave, Ontario's essential workers are most at risk. Paid sick leave, saves lives. Add your name to this petition calling on @Fordnation to legislate paid sick leave now: https://t.co/EjfNTHvyQm— Ms.Singh (@Miss_Singhh) January 16, 2021
A petition with nearly 20,000 signatures is currenty circulating in which Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott to legislate paid sick days.
"Ontario's low-wage workers — the ones who fill assembly lines, process food, and package your online orders in warehouses — are at greater risk of catching this deadly virus due to a lack of support so they can stay home if they get sick," it reads.
"Without paid sick leave, many workers will show up for work even if they're feeling unwell — because they need to make ends meet. It's an impossible decision: go to work and risk spreading the virus, or stay home and struggle to put food on the table."
With private citizens, doctors, public health experts and politicians now all calling upon the province to mandate paid sick leave for all employees, the issue isn't going to disappear with the arrival of vaccines (which we could be waiting a while for anyway.)
Launched this week, the benefit will provide owners of "horse experience businesses" such as riding schools and horse camps $2,500 per animal (up to a maximum of $20,000 in financial support) to "help cover direct costs for feed, water, veterinary care and farrier services needed to maintain horses."
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