Ontario government plans 'imminent' announcement on enhancements to paid sick day program
TORONTO -- The Ontario government will be making some sort of announcement regarding enhancements to the federal paid sick days program “in the next couple of days,” according to House Leader Paul Calandra.
Premier Doug Ford’s government has insisted for months now that it would be redundant for it to introduce its own paid sick day program while workers are eligible to receive payments through the Canada Recovery and Sickness Benefit (CRSB).
Critics, however, have said that the federal program is insufficient due to the fact that only provides sick workers with up to $500 per week and requires that they apply and go without pay until their applications are approved.
On Wednesday, Calandra told reporters at Queen’s Park that the Ford government was hoping the “gaps” in the program would have been rectified in the recent federal budget and was “disappointed” to see only minor changes made.
He said that cabinet will now be meeting over the coming days to determine how the Ontario government can supplement the program.
“We want to make sure we address all those shortcomings that we have been talking about but look it is imminent,” he said of a potential announcement. “Obviously it is important for us to get this out as soon as possible in light of the disappointment Monday. But we are going to get it right and over the next couple of days we will come forward with something.”
The lack of paid sick days has been repeatedly singled out as a major issue driving the spread of COVID-19 in essential workers and on Tuesday the panel of scientific experts advising the Ford government released a report calling for a provincial emergency benefit that would offer more money than the federal program and be immediately paid to all essential workers “when they are sick, when they’ve been exposed, need time off to get tested, or when it’s their turn to get vaccinated.”
On Wednesday, Calandra specifically identified the waiting time for the federal program and the fact that workers are not currently paid for time off to receive a COVID-19 vaccination as issues that will be addressed. He said that cabinet will also be considering whether the total amount of money that workers can receive needs to be increased.
“I am not going to tell you we are taking our time to get it right, we are moving quickly to get it right and it is something we are going to do imminently,” he said.
Calandra claims premier has done 'spectacular job'
The NDP had moved a motion earlier this week that aimed to create a new provincial paid-sick leave program but it was quickly defeated.
Calandra was asked on Wednesday whether the government made a mistake in waiting so long to act but he defended the delay, noting that the presence of variants of concern in recent months have created a “different dynamic” that have made enhanced supports for workers necessary. .
He also defended Premier Doug Ford’s handling of the pandemic, even as record case counts and surging hospitalization rates increasingly put Ontario’s healthcare system on the brink of collapse.
“The premier has done a spectacular job,” he said.
The Ford government eliminated a paid sick leave program introduced by the previous Liberal government in one of its first acts after taking office in 2018.