“I’m sorry,” says Ford during appearance confirming paid sick time is coming

Premier Doug Ford addresses the media on April 22, 2021. (Screen shot from Zoom)

In his first news conference since announcing new police powers and the closure of playgrounds, Premier Doug Ford offered an apology.

Within hours of the announcement, police service after police service across Ontario criticized the measures, saying they went too far.

Criticism over the closure of playgrounds was just as loud, forcing a rare reversal from the Ontario government over the weekend.

Members of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table expressed dismay and accused the Ford government of ignoring its calls for paid sick days as the number of infections balloon. One, Doctor Peter Juni, admitted he considered quitting.

Thursday morning, Ford was contrite.

“Last week, in response to extremely troubling modelling that told us we could see well over 15,000 [COVID-19]cases a day, we moved fast to put in measures to reduce mobility, but we moved too fast,” said Ford. “I know that some of those measures, especially around enforcement, went too far.”

Earlier in the week, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton and Health Minister Christine Elliott told members of the media a program that would provide paid sick days was under consideration. Ford confirmed it Thursday but said it would not be a standalone benefit. Instead, it would address gaps in the federal Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit.

A provincial benefit paying workers to stay home when they are sick is not new in Ontario. The previous Liberal government introduced it, but soon after winning the election in 2018, the Conservatives scrapped it. Now two years later, and more than a year into the pandemic, it’s reconsidering its decision.

The fact Ford appeared from his home where he is self-isolating after a staff member in his office tested positive for COVID-19 was not lost on the Premier.

“During these unprecedented times, regardless of where you work or what you do, if you’re forced to go into isolation or quarantine, your job should be safe,” he said. “You also need to know you won’t lose your income.”

Ford has resisted providing paid sick days, pointing to the federal program. But critics have pointed out that the federal program leaves workers waiting for retroactive pay, something that many low income workers cannot afford to do.