Ford government offering to double federal sick leave payments

By News Staff and Richard Southern

The Ford government is offering to double the federal paid sick day payments to $1,000 a week, but it doesn’t look like Ottawa is willing to play ball.

Rather than creating its own program, the province has made an offer to the federal government, stating it will pay the difference and offer workers $1,000 a week rather than the current $500.

In a letter obtained by 680 NEWS from Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy to federal Finance Minster Chrystia Freeland, he said the provincial government is prepared to make this commitment “immediately” and pay the full cost of the top up.

You can read the full letter below this story

However, a statement from Freeland’s office explains the federal program is not meant as a substitution for the provincial paid sick leave program.

“When Ontario is ready to mandate sick leave in provincially-regulated businesses, as we have done for federally-regulated businesses, we will be there to help. In fact, the wage subsidy was designed – and is already set up – to provide employers with financial support to pay the wages of workers who are on sick leave,” the statement reads.

“The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is there to help those Canadians who would otherwise fall through the cracks – either because they do not have a regular employer or because their province has not yet mandated that paid sick leave be offered.”

Despite it appearing Ottawa had rejected the province’s offer, Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said he found the response from the federal government encouraging.

“I’m encouraged, quite frankly. This is the first time they’ve indicated that they want to talk to us. I look forward to engaging them this afternoon to get to work on behalf of Ontario workers,” he explained.

But Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wonders if she and McNaughton read the same letter.

“His optimism is very unfounded. When I read that letter, in short it said when hell freezes over we’re to fix your problem.”

The paid sick day program has been a bone of contention between the Ford government and both opposition parties for months, with both the Liberals and NDP insisting it would be essential to stopping the spread of COVID-19. Their sentiment has been echoed by the Ontario Science Advisory Table.

On Monday Ontario Liberal labour critic Michael Coteau (Don Valley East) condemned the Conservative government’s rejection of his bill which would have guaranteed 10 paid sick days for all workers in Ontario.

“We know paid sick days save lives,” he said in a release after the bill was voted down 20-55 at Queen’s Park.

“Every single expert, all opposition parties and countless municipal leaders have called on this government to do the right thing and create a paid sick leave program. For over 400 days, the government has refused to act.”

Throughout the pandemic, Premier Doug Ford has pointed its fingers at the federal Liberals saying it was their responsibility.

But just last week it seemed the province was changing its tune on paid sick leave, saying a program was in the works. No timeline was provided, and in a follow-up statement the government said it will not mandate Ontario companies to provide sick days.

One of the biggest criticisms regarding the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is that it takes too long to get workers money. Workers have to apply for support payments after they have lost money due to time off.

Letter to Minister Freeland by CityNewsToronto on Scribd

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