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Ford government faces heat at Queen's Park amidst calls for Premier to resign

Last Updated Apr 19, 2021 at 9:07 pm EDT

Ontario Premier Doug Ford arrives for a press conference during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, Friday, November 20, 2020. Ontario is moving the COVID-19 hot spots of Toronto and Peel Region into lockdown starting Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The Ford government is under fire like never before after its stunning weekend backtracks as Ontario’s Liberal Leader calls on the Premier to resign as soon as possible.

After a politically disastrous weekend for the provincial government, house leader Paul Calandra came as about as close as you can get to issuing an apology at Queen’s Park.

“It wasn’t our best weekend communication-wise and especially given how challenging this has been for the people of the province of Ontario and we can do a better job of communicating what we need to do to get beyond this,” said Calandra.

Liberal MPP John Fraser, meanwhile, said this isn’t a communications problem, pointing to the Premier’s unwillingness to listen to science.

“Last Friday the Premier jumped the shark,” said Fraser. “He’s lost the confidence and the faith of the Ontario people.”

RELATED: Ford government rejects NDP paid sick day motion

In a scathing statement issued on Monday, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca urged Ford to step down for the sake of the province.

“I am calling on Doug Ford to do the honourable and right thing, to recognize his own limitations and to resign,” said Del Duca.

“If he [Ford] does [resign], I will be the first to commend him, because it takes real guts to get out of the way when he’s screwed up this badly. But he won’t. Because he only cares about himself and his special friends.”

With the Premier nowhere to be found at Queen’s Park on Monday, it was up to Calandra and Health Minister Christine Elliott to explain the stunning backtrack on police enforcement.

“Have we been perfect? Absolutely not,” said Calandra. “And we will continue to make mistakes.”

Ontario reversed course on sweeping police powers Saturday, just one day after Premier Ford announced the measures that quickly triggered a swift and furious backlash.

“We did realize that police stopping vehicles was not the way to deal with it,” said Elliott.

“It was more important for police to be able to a break up large gatherings.”

On the weekend, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones confirmed that police will only be able to stop people who they have reason to believe are participating in an “organized public event or social gathering.”

A spokesperson for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, Joe Couto, says police forces had to come out quickly on Friday to assure the public that they would not be randomly stopping people.

Couto says arbitrarily stopping people would be unethical, unenforceable and police forces do not have the resources to do it.

He says police will instead focus their enforcement efforts on large gatherings of more than five people.

The inclusion of playgrounds being closed provincewide was short-lived, too. Ford himself took to Twitter this weekend to announce that this restriction would also be reversed, saying “enhanced restrictions were always intended to stop large gatherings where spread can happen.”

“Our regulations will be amended to allow playgrounds but gatherings outside will still be enforced. Play outside safely. Parents keep your distance and wear masks if you can’t,” tweeted the Premier.

The move to repeal playground closures comes after a number of municipal leaders, along with parents and medical professionals questioned the government.

Elliott was asked who recommended that playgrounds close, with the Health Minister revealing that it in fact did not come from Dr. David Williams.

“No, Dr. Williams recommended to us that we reduce mobility as much as possible,” she said.

“That we make sure that people follow the medical advice that he’s been giving to us.”

The new anti-pandemic measures include further restrictions on social gatherings and essential retailers, the closure of some outdoor recreation centres, and a pause on non-essential construction projects.

As for Premier Ford, he’s doubling down that he’s fit for the job. Sharing an image of himself on Twitter, he says he’s focused on vaccines and will “exhaust every option” to gets shots into arms.

With files from The Canadian Press

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