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City council extends mask bylaw, asks province to extend paid sick leave

Last Updated Feb 3, 2021 at 3:45 pm EDT

People in downtown toronto waiting for TTC bus wearing masks. (Undated)

Toronto City Council has extended the temporary mask bylaws until the beginning of June.

The bylaws, which require everyone to wear masks or face coverings in all indoor public settings such as businesses, and in common areas in multi-residential buildings such as apartments and condominiums, were set to expire today.

City council has also recommended that Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health continue to conduct a monthly assessment regarding the need to continue these bylaws.

“Right now, we must use every tool we have to keep one another safe from COVID-19 and the highly-transmissible new variants,” said councillor Joe Cressy, who is also chair of the Toronto Board of Health. “While I know we all want this period to be over, these public health measures will help us continue to protect ourselves and others at a time when it’s more important than ever.”

Councillors also overwhelmingly passed a motion, calling on the Ford government to immediately implement 10 days of paid sick leave for workers during a public health emergency, such as the current pandemic.

The recommendation, which was issued by Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa, was endorsed by a vote of 24-2.

Premier Doug Ford said last month there is “no reason” for the province to introduce its own paid sick leave program, pointing to an existing federal program.

“If people don’t feel they are getting it quick enough than we need to change the program,” Ford said. “Let’s be very, very clear there’s no reason for the province to jump in there when less than 27 per cent of the overall program hasn’t been taken up.”

Last September, the Liberals launched the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, which provides $500 a week for up to two weeks. However, critics say the benefit pays less than a full-time minimum wage job and does not provide job security for workers seeking to use it. The program has seen limited take-up and experienced processing delays.

A report by Toronto’s Board of Health states only 42 per cent of working Canadians currently have access to paid sick leave, and among low-wage and frontline workers the number is estimated to be only 10 per cent. In Toronto alone, 60 per cent of workplace outbreaks have occurred in frontline warehousing, shipping and distribution, manufacturing, and food processing.

“Workers without paid sick leave, particularly essential and frontline workers, continue to feel financial pressure to work even when ill,” said councillor Cressy. “City Council today has endorsed the Board of Health’s call that the Province must step up and act now to protect essential and frontline workers, before it’s too late.”