Ontario is working to bring forward a paid sick leave program to support people forced to isolate and miss work due to COVID-19, Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference Thursday.
He spoke to media via Zoom from the Toronto home where he is currently isolating after a staffer tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
“I experienced a workplace exposure from a member of my team,” he said. “I’m able to isolate and continue working. But for too many people right now, that’s not the case.”
He added the province is now working on its own solution to fill the gaps in Canada’s federal paid sick leave program.
The program would be designed to fill the gaps in Canada’s federal COVID-19 paid sick leave program. It will not be a more broad sick leave program that would continue after the pandemic.
Ford said the current two- or three-day gap between isolation and receiving a cheque through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) is too long for some workers, and Ontario’s program will be faster.
“If you’re living paycheque to paycheque, you shouldn’t have to wait long for the support you need,” Ford said.
He would not say when the new program would be revealed, only that it’s being worked on.
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He began his remarks by apologizing for the sweeping new police powers he announced last week where his government authorized officers to stop pedestrians and drivers to ask why they’re out and for their home address.
He said he expanded police powers based on cellphone data indicating that people were moving around too much to meaningfully lower COVID-19 transmission.
“All I hear is limit mobility, limit mobility,” he said.
The move was widely criticized as a return to carding that would disproportionately impact people of colour.
“Simply put, we got it wrong. We made a mistake,” he said. “For that, I’m sorry, and I sincerely apologize.”
Ford also faced questions about his competency to lead the government and why he hasn’t acted sooner to implement paid sick leave or bring in measures to make essential workplaces safer.
He responded by saying his opponents have a right to express criticism, but maintained blaming him for the third wave of infection that’s happening “around the world” is a fallacy.
He also became emotional when talking about families who couldn’t say goodbye to loved ones due to hospital and care home visiting restrictions.
“This pandemic is something that has affected every single person in Ontario,” he said. “I want all of you to know I will always try to do what’s right.”
Ontario is currently under a Stay-at-Home order that’s set to expire on May 19. Schools in the province are also closed indefinitely. The province’s seven-day average for new daily cases sits at 4,176.