Premier Doug Ford has apologized for the heavy handed pandemic measures introduced last week, while also promising to bring in a paid sick-leave program.
“We got it wrong, we made a mistake… I’m sorry and I sincerely apologize,” Ford said while speaking outside his home where he is currently quarantining after a member of his staff recently tested positive for COVID-19.
“I will always try to do what’s right,” Ford said. “If we get something wrong, we’ll fix it.”
An emotional Ford also said they are working on a paid sick day program – something that his government has resisted since the pandemic began.
He says people forced into quarantine should not have to worry about their jobs or income.
He says the province is now working on a solution because the federal government hasn’t expanded its own policy but did not go into details or provide a timeline. In a statement released later in the day, Ford says they will not mandate Ontario 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.
Critics slammed Ford for failing to make substantial commitments to immediately implement sick leave and noted he also didn’t move to follow other recommendations from experts like closing all non-essential 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.”
Asked if he still has the moral authority to lead Ontario, Ford said “I’m not one to walk away from anything, we will continue to lead through this pandemic.”
The union representing public employees also criticized the sick leave announcement as lacking action, saying it left workers hanging.
“It’s time for far more than assurance that he’ll work on something,” Fred Hahn, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario said in a statement.
In his morning press conference, Ford did acknowledge that the lockdowns have been “devastating for people.”
“I hear it everyday – every single day. People telling me their stories, the stories that make you cry. Families that haven’t been able to hold hands…,” Ford said as he became emotional, his voice quivering. “Hold the hand of their mum or dad as they passed away because of COVID-19 restrictions in hospitals.”
The turnaround came after Ford announced new COVID-19 regulations on Friday that gave police sweeping new powers and closed playgrounds and other recreational facilities, sparking a furious backlash from law enforcement, municipal leaders and medical professionals.
The government announced the new restrictions amid soaring cases and an alarming rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report