federal emergencies act canada

Canada could invoke Federal Emergencies Act to aid Ontario with vaccines and sick pay

Canada's Federal Emergencies Act could be a way for Ontario to access the paid sick leave and improved vaccine rollout it so desperately needs, according to Jagmeet Singh, and he's urging Justin Trudeau to consider invoking it to help the province navigate its deadly third wave.

The leader of the NDP sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau Monday morning asking him to revisit the possibility of declaring a public welfare emergency under the act in Ontario as case rates continue to soar and ICUs fill up, something that was considered by the PM once before early on in the pandemic.

According to Singh, the move would allow the federal government to ensure "a more coordinated delivery of vaccines to those who need it most, as well as [enable] workers to prevent the spread by taking paid sick days and time off to get vaccinated."

"Canada is not yet receiving enough vaccines and vaccines have been slow to arrive. In some places, this means that vaccines are not available to those in danger," Singh wrote in the letter.

"The most glaring example of this is in the city of Toronto, where the wealthiest neighbourhoods have higher rates of vaccination than neighbourhoods where racialized and working-class people live — and which have higher levels of COVID-19 positivity."

The MP argues that it is clear the virus is spreading in workplaces in Ontario, and that paid sick days and paid vaccination leave are urgently needed to help curb this deadly problem. 

This recommendation is anything but new, but the province's blatant refusal to act on expert advice has prompted Singh to call on Trudeau to use his powers to implement these changes instead.

"Many provinces have taken steps to contain the virus and distribute vaccines to priority populations. I do not believe a declaration should apply to provinces where it is not needed," reads the letter.

"Ontario is a glaring exception. If public confidence in the government's response to COVID-19 is further eroded, this will make it almost impossible to stop the spread of the virus. The stakes could not be higher."

Singh is also encouraging the PM to consider making changes to the federal sickness benefit to make it more accessible, flexible and to offer full pay, and he is also asking Trudeau to meet with opposition leaders and premiers to work together on much-needed solutions. 

"Doctors have called the current situation in Ontario a 'catastrophe,'" he said. "There is still time to change the course of the pandemic. There is still time to save lives. But we have to act."

Lead photo by

Justin Trudeau

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