Premier Doug Ford defended the $2.5 million investment for bracelets that beep when users aren’t physically distancing after some said the money could have gone to more worthwhile COVID-19 relief.
On Monday, during a press conference, Ford was asked about the investment made last week, providing Facedrive Inc. with $2.5 million through the Ontario Together Fund to accelerate the deployment of its wearable contact tracing technology, TraceSCAN.
The device will also act like the COVID-19 Alert app, notifying those who have come into contact with someone who has contracted the virus.
The technology would be used in work or congregate settings like airlines, schools, construction sites, and long-term care homes.
When asked why he invested in the technology — as most people already know the importance of physical distancing — over providing money for paid sick days or permanently increasing wages for personal support workers, Ford said, “We look deep into anything that we invest in attracting jobs, and I think so far, over the last two years, two and a half years, anything that was invested [in] has created a tremendous amount of jobs.”
“We always look at risk on any investment that we do and the return on investment, and they came back and said ‘here’s a good return on investment.’ You just don’t look, you know where you are in a couple of weeks, you have to look at the long-term investment, and we felt like it was a good investment, so we moved forward on it.”
The decision has received backlash from some, with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association on Twitter saying, “For some reason, the Ford government has chosen to invest $ in beeping bracelets instead of #PaidSickDays, smaller classes for physical distancing, etc. Pretty sure no one asked for this.”
Another user commented on the investment with, “It’s stupid and think where all that money could have gone too instead. I know many Ontarians who would have appreciated getting back their paid sick days Ford took away from them.”
During the press conference, Ford also defended his decision to not provide paid sick leave on a provincial level, as the federal government’s Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit already provides assistance for those who are sick or need to self isolate from COVID-19.