Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy are scheduled to make an announcement Wednesday afternoon, and many anticipate they’ll reveal details about a paid sick leave plan for Ontario.
Premier Doug Ford has said a paid sick leave plan is coming but has not yet shared details of what it will look like.
Public health experts and labour advocates are calling for paid sick days delivered directly through employers so that workers receive an uninterrupted paycheque if they need to take time off to self-isolate during the pandemic.
Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, has repeatedly called for paid sick days, and Mayor John Tory added last week he’s hopeful Ford will do the “right thing.”
Last week, the Government of Ontario wrote a letter to federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland offering to top up the existing Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) payments from $500 per week to $1,000 for Ontarians.
But Ottawa appeared to reject that offer Monday.
“Provinces need to work on a way to deliver sick leave directly through employers, which the federal government can’t do,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference.
A spokesperson for Freeland added the federal program is only meant to catch people who fall through the cracks.
“When Ontario is ready to mandate sick leave in provincially regulated businesses, as we have done for federally regulated businesses, we will be there to help,” Freeland’s press secretary Katherine Cuplinskas told Daily Hive. “In fact, the wage subsidy was designed – and is already set up – to provide employers with financial support to pay the wages of workers who are on sick leave.”
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Ford’s conservative government has repeatedly shut down calls for provincially mandated paid sick days to combat COVID-19 spread during the pandemic. However, Ford changed tack on sick leave last week when speaking outside the Toronto home where he’s currently isolating due to a close contact staffer who contracted COVID-19.
“I experienced a workplace exposure from a member of my team,” he said at the time. “I’m able to isolate and continue working. But for too many people right now, that’s not the case.”
The Ontario ministers are scheduled to speak at 3:15 pm from Queen’s Park.