Canada

Ford government now ‘considering’ provincial paid sick leave program as it faces widespread criticism

TORONTO —
More than a year into the pandemic, Premier Doug Ford is considering an Ontario-based paid sick leave program as his government faces widespread condemnation of its handling of the third wave of COVID-19.

Deputy Premier Christine Elliott confirmed that the government is considering “alternatives” to the Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit to fill “gaps” in the program — first launched in the fall of 2020.

The government insists it was hoping the program — which retroactively pays employees if they miss 50 per cent of their work week — would be tweaked in Monday’s federal budget before deciding whether to take provincial action.

“This was a federal program that was to supply the sick benefits, it didn’t seem necessary for us to institute another program if there already was a federal program that could have been improved,” Elliott told reporters at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.

“It was apparent … that they weren’t making any amendments to their sick benefits program and so those gaps still remain and that is what we are going to be addressing,” Elliott said.

While the province didn’t specify what the program would look like, sources with knowledge of the decision making say the government is working through the complexities of paid sick leave and is determining how best to implement the program.

Opposition parties are calling on the government to legislate a minimum of 10 paid days of emergency leave for employees, with the provincial government footing the costs during the pandemic.

“I’m open to having a rebate program where the employer, not the employee, can apply for government funding to backstop it,” said Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner.

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table has identified paid sick leave as a critical component of the province’s third wave response, allowing ill front-line workers to isolate if they experience symptoms of COVID-19.

“If you want to get the pandemic under control you need to address this root cause,” Dr. Peter Juni, a member of the Science Advisory Table told CTV’s Your Morning.

“If the province wants to get this under control and tries to do that without paid sick leave, it won’t work.”


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