Premier Doug Ford voted against the Official Opposition’s bill to have paid sick leave during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though advocates and health experts say it’s mandatory to prevent virus spread.
On Tuesday, NDP leader Andrea Horwath said the Ford government voted against the bill for paid sick leave, flying flags at half-mast to honour those who died from COVID-19, and a bill to staff up and give long-term care residents four hours of daily care and attention.
“Overpromising and underdelivering is the hallmark of this government when it comes to everything COVID-19 related,” Horwath said on Tuesday.
“Today, New Democrats pushed for urgent solutions to stop the spread and give folks the help and hope they need: paid sick days, 4 hours of care in LTC & improving caregivers’ access. Instead, once again, Ford and his PC MPPs put money and their politics ahead of public health.”
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NDP MPP Peggy Sattler, the Official Opposition Labour critic, said, “until we make it possible for every worker in Ontario to stay home if they are sick, we won’t be able to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Her bill, the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act, would provide seven permanent paid sick days, and 14 additional days during the pandemic.
The provincial government’s decision left the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) “outraged.”
“Legislating paid sick days is a common-sense action that public health officials, mayors, and workers’ advocates all agree is essential to curbing the spread of COVID-19,” said Patty Coates, Ontario Federation of Labour President, in a statement.
“PC MPP’s decision to continue to ignore expert advice will result in preventable illnesses and deaths. This government’s refusal to protect Ontarians is infuriating and heartbreaking.”
The Association of Local Public Health Agencies also wrote to the premier asking for mandatory paid sick leave to prevent transmission of the disease.
The letter says, as schools reopen and with the economy preparing to reopen, it’s important to have “strong and clear reinforcement of public health interventions aimed at preventing transmission.”
Toronto’s Board of Health Chair, Joe Cressy, has also been an advocate for paid sick leave, saying, “We must listen to the medical experts. We need paid sick leave, and we need it now.”
On Wednesday, the Official Opposition will look for all-party support to pass an evictions ban during the pandemic, an equity strategy, and a plan to make schools safe.