MPP Wayne Gates is beyond frustrated at the provincial government, and vows to keep up the pressure against political decisions which ignore the advice of provincial and federal top health experts.
The restrictions announced Friday, with no mention of paid sick leave, no initiatives to protect essential workers, and no further shut-down of non-essential businesses, had “everyone shaking their heads,” he says.
Sick pay is an essential tool to curb COVID, says Gates, and to be effective it has to be offered immediately, and seamlessly, so people will stay home when they’re sick, rather than going to work and spreading infection to co-workers and their families.
“Instead, more powers were given to police, without even getting the support of the police ahead of time. It was mind-boggling,” he says, referring to the decision to give police the right to pull over drivers and ask where they are going and why. That was reversed over the weekend when police services across the province said they weren’t willing to do that.
Also disturbing was the shut-down of playgrounds, golf courses, soccer fields and other outdoor venues which have no record of outbreaks, and was against expert health advice, rather than addressing the workplaces where outbreaks are occurring, spreading to the community, and sometimes whole families, says Gates, who are showing up in hospitals and intensive care units.
On Saturday, the premier rescinded his order to shut down playgrounds in a tweet, although not other outdoor bans such as tennis and other activities, but didn’t add anything that might have been effective.
“I can’t understand, for the life of me, why the government isn’t listening to the doctors. Even doctors can’t understand why they’re not listening to doctors.”
A week or so ago, “there were a few people screaming. Now everyone’s upset. This is the richest province in the country, and one of the richest countries in the world. There is no reason we can’t afford to pay for sick days. We can’t afford not to do it,” he says.
“As a province, we can afford sick days. And 70 per cent of the people in Ontario believe we need sick days.”
He also points to the $22 million the province spends to fund intensive care units, a cost that is climbing every day with the need to increase capacity.
There was talk Monday about Premier Doug Ford shutting down the legislature, “when the reality is people are dying,” says Gates, accusing him of running away from his duties.
Although Ford has pointed to federal help for those who are sick, and there was some limited support offered in the new federal budget, it’s not enough to encourage people who have COVID symptoms to stay home, says Gates, the federal funding is not immediate, and it’s not seamless. “It doesn’t guarantee a continuation of wages.”
He will also continue to push for paid time off for vaccination appointments, and more financial support for small and medium-sized businesses struggling through the pandemic.
“We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing,” he says, pressing the government to take the advice of medical experts to heart and act on it.
“We’re seeing so many doctors, so many mayors, even backbenchers in the Conservative Party saying we’re not going in the right direction. People are dying, and their deaths could have been prevented. Hopefully over the next few days the pressure will get the government to do the right thing. We have to continue to put pressure on the government to change their course. I’m sure they’re starting to think like the rest of us. Let’s stop the dying. We can do it collectively.”