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'Not good enough': Opposition, science table, labour groups react to paid sick leave plan

Last Updated Apr 29, 2021 at 11:45 am EDT

Ontario Premier Doug Ford leads members of his cabinet to the daily briefing at Queen's Park in Toronto on Monday November 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Members of the opposition, the province’s own science table and labour groups are among many reacting to Ontario’s COVID-19 sick leave plan that, if passed, will see eligible workers get three paid days off and an increase of up to $1,000 a week.

Legislation for the new proposal will be introduced by the provincial government on Thursday.

Ontario’s COVID-19 science table issued a series of tweets repeating that the province needs effective sick leave to protect businesses and employees and to end the third wave.

“In the United States, the introduction of a temporary paid sick leave resulted in an estimated 50 percent reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases per state per day,” the science table said in its data brief.

“The existing Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) cannot financially protect essential workers in following all public health measures, places the administrative burden of applying for the benefit on essential workers, and neither provides sufficient, nor timely payments.”

The following graphic lists the characteristics of what the science table considers a model paid sick leave program as opposed to the CRSB.

“Implementation of the model program should be done in a way that is easy to navigate and quick for employers,” they wrote.

Mayor John Tory called the announcement from the province a step forward but says the number of days requires a legitimate discussion. The mayor says there needs to be clarification on how quickly essential workers can get the money into their hands.

“Peter Bethlenfalvy and Chrystia Freeland are both people well known to me and they are both reasonable, maybe if they could just get on a zoom call we could get these details ironed out,” says Tory.

Tory says his biggest concern is that the money get into the hands of the people who need it as quickly as possible.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says the Ford government took far too long to act.

“In the year it took the Ford government to capitulate on #PaidSickDays, 455,000 people were infected and nearly 8,000 died of COVID-19,” said Horwath on social media. 

“This comes far too late. Too late to stop COVID-19 from getting out of control, and too late for workers who already got sick.”

Horwath says three paid sick days isn’t nearly long enough to compensate people that contract the virus.

“… COVID-19 recovery takes a couple [of] weeks. Even getting a test and results can take several days. Three sick days is not enough. Thank you to those who fought for paid sick days. We share your disappointment and we’re going to keep fighting alongside you.”

Toronto councillor Joe Cressy repeated Horwath’s opinions on the program, saying three paid sick days for a virus that requires people to isolate for a minimum of 10 days is “not good enough.”

“The Ontario government just announced a #PaidSickDays program that offers 3 days for a virus that requires people to isolate for a minimum of 10 days,” tweeted Toronto palliative care physician Naheed Dosani.

“The cognitive dissonance is maddening.”

 

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) say the Ford government have chosen “chaos and confusion” instead of any semblance of the type of plan that has been called for.

“This is not the paid sick days we need,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “Health experts, including their own science advisory table, community organizations, and front-line workers have called for 10 permanent employer paid sick days. Instead the Conservatives announced three, and only until September 25. We’ve called for them to be employer-paid. Instead we got a plan that given even more subsidies to Loblaws, Amazon, and Walmart.”

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario called the plan “half-baked,” arguing it continues to leave education workers unprotected during the pandemic.

The Ontario Federation of Labour also weighed in, saying “Ontario workers need more than a temporary benefit. We need permanent, seamless, adequate, and universal #PaidSickdays. #PaidSickDaySaveLives.”

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, who has called on Premier Doug Ford to resign, said the new plan is a “half-hearted attempt” and “an abandonment of workers.”

“It’s been a week since his apology and 412 days since my first letter on paid sick leave, and what Doug Ford came up with is a failure,” tweeted Del Duca.

“In the last week alone, more than 20,000 people have gotten sick and 159 have died while we waited for some form of action. Appalling. Doug Ford’s program abandons our workers and is an attempt to salvage his own career instead of saving the lives of our essential workers who are begging for this security. He needs to resign for his total failure to lead this province through a crisis.”

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton announced the measure today after months of intense pressure from experts and advocates who’ve said sick leave would help reduce workplace outbreaks.

The province will reimburse employers up to $200 a day for what they pay out through the program.

McNaughton says the plan – which will be administered through the Workplace Insurance and Safety Board – will be retroactive to April 19 and will end on September 25.

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