Doug Ford confirms that paid sick days are coming for Ontario workers
Ontario is officially getting paid sick days for essential workers who need to stay home due to COVID-19, Premier Doug Ford confirmed Thursday morning during an emotional and conciliatory announcement.
It only took him three months to do it — or three months, at least, since local governments and health officials started calling for paid leave to slow the spread of viral variants which are now ravaging many essential workplaces.
Details about how Ontario's provincial paid COVID sick-leave program will work are still scant, but Ford did acknowledge that his government is "now working on" a solution to compensate people who must miss work after exposure to or sickness from the virus.
"I'm sure that you may have noticed that I am speaking to you today while in isolation," said the premier during a press conference at his late mother's house in Etobicoke after apologizing for the heavy-handed restrictions his administration announced on Friday (and then promptly scaled back).
"I experienced a workplace exposure from a member of my team who, despite their best efforts, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week," continued Ford. "And I assure you that it is not lost on me that, unlike many people, I'm able to isolate and continue working."
"For too many people right now, that's not the case. And during these unprecedented times, regardless of where you work or what you do, if you're forced to go into isolation or quarantine, your job should be safe."
Premier Ford holds a virtual press conference https://t.co/zlsyKgGhRp— Doug Ford (@fordnation) April 22, 2021
Ford went on to boast that Ontario was the first province to introduce legislation that protected people from losing their jobs if sick from COVID, but finally acknowledged this morning that "it isn't enough to know you can't lose your job, you also need to know you won’t lose your income."
"If you're living paycheque to paycheque, you shouldn't have to wait long for the support you need," said Ford, echoing the sentiments of health experts and advocates who had earlier warned that paid sick leave could have prevented the disastrous third wave we're currently experiencing.
The beleagured premier went on to say that his ministers had been trying for months to "work with the federal government to fix the existing federal sick pay program" but that the budget unveiled by Trudeau on Monday didn't include what he wanted to see.
"That's why we're now working on our own solution to fill those gaps for everyone in Ontario," said Ford. "Because I want workers to know, as I have right from the beginning, I will always have your back. And I want all of you to know that I will always try to do what's right."
His critics, who are plentiful, might disagree with that last statement.
Ford's confirmation of a paid sick leave program comes two days after Health Minister Christine Elliott suggested that the province was ready to consider relenting after months and months of resistance.
On Wednesday, the Ford government signaled a paid sick day program was "imminent."
Not only had the province's own COVID-19 Science Advisory Table recommended implementing paid sick leave earlier this week, Toronto and Peel Region both went above Ford's head to implement Section 22 orders mandating the closure of workplaces in which more than five cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed.
Medical officers of health for both regions are strongly recommending that employers provide financial compensation to employees who must miss work due to illness or exposure, but the province has yet to mandate this action or provide any sort of funding.
Ontario residents are now waiting eagerly to see what kind of legislation Ford's government introduces to help essential workers and, by extension, all of society by controlling the third wave and finally getting this stay-at-home order lifted.
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