‘Sorry folks won’t cut it’: With Ford under fire, opposition leaders won’t back down

By Lucas Casaletto

Premier Doug Ford promises his government will create a COVID-19 paid sick-leave program for workers after months of refusing to do so.

In his first public appearance in almost a week, Ford says people forced into quarantine due to the pandemic should not have to worry about their jobs or income.

The Premier assured that the government is working on a solution for paid sick leave, adding that Ottawa hasn’t expanded an existing benefit and gave no timeline or specifics on what he plans.

Public health experts and others have been calling for sick-leave support for much of the pandemic, arguing it would reduce COVID-19 spread in workplaces.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath quickly responded following Ford’s virtual press conference, saying the Premier “chose to walk people into a catastrophic third wave,” adding that his comments offered nothing.

“No more delays and disastrous decisions that cost lives. Ford must pass paid sick days, close non-essential businesses, and send vaccines to hotspots. Today,” Horwath said.

“Entire families are lying in the ICU. Folks go to work with symptoms because they can’t afford a sick day. Vulnerable people and our frontline heroes cannot get a vaccine. Every day Ford delays action, more lives are lost, and more families and businesses are devastated.”

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, who recently issued a statement urging Ford to step down, said Ontarians are losing confidence in the Premier’s ability to lead the province through the current circumstances.

“Doug Ford knows he’s spiralling and that Ontario voters have lost confidence in his ability to manage this emergency. But ‘Sorry, folks’ won’t cut it,” said Del Duca.

“His cold-hearted refusal to introduce paid sick days for more than a year has already cost lives.”

In a statement from Ford’s office, a spokesperson said the Premier will not mandate Ontario-wide companies to provide sick days.

“While we work to fill the gaps in the federal paid sick leave program, Premier Ford made very clear today that our government will not impose any additional burden on the backs of Ontario businesses that have been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ford’s press secretary said.

Ford’s office goes on to single out Del Duca specifically, saying the Liberal Leader “has not been clear where he stands when it comes to saddling small businesses with more debt in the middle of this third wave.”

“… Mr. Del Duca needs to get his story straight and be upfront with small businesses in Ontario about how much his paid sick leave program will cost them.”

On Monday, the Ford government rejected efforts to support essential workers with paid sick leave while admitting its now-reversed moves to close playgrounds and grant police sweeping enforcement powers had been a mistake.

RELATED: Ford issues statement amidst backlash from opposition: ‘Stop politicizing the vaccine rollout’

Ford continues to point to the new Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), which the Trudeau government created in an effort to inspire people to stay home if they, or a member of their family, were potentially exposed to COVID-19.

That federal benefit doesn’t give Canadian workers the freedom to secure funds after calling in sick or staying home.

Instead, it’s required that they meet certain requirements, including a form of proof that shows their employer they were unable to work at least half of their workweek because of COVID-related issues.

The CRSB can be claimed only four times and eligible recipients get $450 after-tax following their allotted time off.

Only two provinces – P.E.I. and Quebec – provides their residents with paid sick days.

In 2018, the Ford government rolled back sweeping labour reform laws that removed paid sick days in Ontario.

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