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Auditor General report rebukes Ontario's handling of COVID-19, top doctor 'did not lead'

Last Updated Nov 25, 2020 at 9:49 pm EST

After Ontario’s Auditor General released a scathing report on the Ford government’s handling of COVID-19 and one that throws into question who is making the decision regarding the pandemic, the premier responded, strongly refuting such claims.

The report from AG Bonnie Lysyk says Ontario’s response “was not dominated by public health expertise” and that Dr. David Williams did not lead Ontario’s response to the pandemic.

Ford heartily defended Ontario’s chief medical officer of health at Queen’s Park on Wednesday, saying the report does nothing but undermine the province’s health team.

“To say that Dr. Williams wasn’t leading this response, it just isn’t right. In fact, it’s wrong,” Ford said.

“I can’t stand for this, and I’ll tell you that I won’t. Dr. Williams has been riding shotgun with me from Day 1. There is no daylight between us and every decision we have made, every step of the way, the health team and Dr. Williams has guided us.”

While Premier Ford has repeatedly said that it’s Dr. Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer, handling the decision making, the report found that Dr. Williams “did not fully exercise his powers under the Heath Protection and Promotion act to respond to COVID-19.”

“He did not issue directives to local medical officers of health to ensure public health units responded consistently to the COVID-19 pandemic, nor did he issue directives on their behalf.”

The report says the lack of direction from Dr. Williams was so bad that in May, the 34 local medical officers of health signed a letter stating they needed more direction. The Auditor General also found that it was the province, not Dr. Williams that finally issued an emergency order to make the wearing of masks mandatory.



“To sit in the office and throw hand grenades at Dr. Williams and his team and the Minister of Health is totally unacceptable, totally unacceptable,” the premier went on to say.

“Stick with looking for value for money, stick with the job that we hired you for. Don’t start pretending you’re a doctor or health professional, because I can tell you, you aren’t. Stick with the numbers, stick with the number crunching,” Ford added.

This bombshell detail comes at the same time that the Ford government is attempting to extend Dr. Williams tenure until next September.

Further adding to questions about pandemic decision making, the AG report found the health command table has now ballooned to more than 500 people and is “overly cumbersome.”

The report says regional response to the pandemic was not generally led by public health experts and that Public Health Ontario played a diminished roll in the pandemic response. It also says many of the recommendations made after the SARS outbreak in 2003 were never implemented.

RELATED: Ontario government introduces rapid COVID-19 tests to be deployed in high transmission regions

The report comes a week after Lysyk released a series of environmental value-for-money audits.

In those documents, she found the province may not meet its greenhouse gas emission targets because reducing fossil fuel use has not been a “cross-government priority.”

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