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Ford government appears set to budge on paid sick days

Last Updated Apr 20, 2021 at 9:08 pm EDT

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott walk to a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

After digging in its heels on the matter, the Ford government signaled it’s set to relent and announce a paid sick day program.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday, “It was clear yesterday with the (federal) budget that it was not going to be improved by the federal government and so we are considering our alternatives now to deal with those gaps.”

It wasn’t clear exactly what type of program the government is considering.

When asked for details, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said he would not speculate, “but I can tell workers out there, we’ve got their backs, we’re going to get through this together.”

Opposition parties are calling on the government to legislate a minimum of 10 paid days of emergency leave for employees

“I’m open to having a rebate program where the employer, not the employee, can apply for government funding to backstop it,” said Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner.

“It’s been completely negligent that the government has put its own ideology and politics ahead of the health and safety of workers,” Schreiner added.

Prior to Tuesday, the Ford government had repeatedly said that the federal Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit – which retroactively pays employees if they miss 50 per cent work week – was all employees needed.

However the Ontario’s Science Advisory Table now points towards a more comprehensive provincial paid sick days program as something that it believes is needed to get the pandemic under control.

In a scathing statement, the table said Tuesday the province is now facing “the most challenging health crisis of our time.”

“Our hospitals are buckling. Younger people are getting sicker. The disease is ripping through whole families,” the group said, calling for stronger measures to control the pandemic.