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Ford government fails to get unanimous consent to extend Dr. Williams' tenure

Last Updated Nov 23, 2020 at 2:33 pm EST

Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, attends a news conference in Toronto, on Monday, January 27, 2020, as officials provide an update on the coronavirus in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The Ford government has failed to receive unanimous consent after tabling a motion earlier Monday to delay the looming retirement of Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams.

Williams, was supposed to retire sometime in February, but the motion sought to keep him in the role until September — an extension Williams agreed to.

After failing to garner the support of the Official Opposition NDP, the government will now to have to go through a debate and vote on the matter.

In a release the NDP explained why it didn’t provide unanimous consent to the motion, saying the decision shouldn’t be made “on the fly” without a full discussion.

“The Chief Medical Officer of Health is a critical player in the pandemic response strategy. Re-appointing him with no process and no discussion is turning this key public health decision into a political game,” said Deputy Leader of the Opposition Sara Singh.

The NDP further says it wrote to the government on Nov. 10 asking for an all-party panel to begin work selecting a Chief Medical Officer of Health, as well as a new position called the Chief Medical Officer of Ontario Health. Instead, the NDP says, the Ford government ignored those requests and tabled Monday’s motion.

“We recognize there are very legitimate concerns about how the government is handling this pandemic,” added Singh.

“The Ford government cut back on public health protections just as the second wave was starting to surge, and set disastrously high thresholds for action.

“People are legitimately concerned about whether Dr. Williams actually advised Doug Ford to do these dangerous things — or, rather, if Dr. Williams is just justifying political decisions.”

In a statement, Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the province is in desperate need of stable leadership as it navigates a troubling second wave of the virus.

“We need someone who fully understands the pandemic and the province’s public health system as we continue to work collectively to stop the spread of COVID-19, and continue the work preparing for the deployment of vaccines,” Elliott said.

“There is no one better suited for the job than Dr. Williams.”

Ford agreed, saying: “I do not believe in changing a dance partner in the middle of a dance, especially when he’s a great dancer.”

The precarious nature of Williams’ employment status comes as Ford announced Monday that Ontario would have a vaccine for COVID-19 sometime in early 2021.

Ford said the vaccine rollout will be a huge logistical undertaking and he announced the creation of vaccine distribution task force to be led by General Rick Hillier.