Ford to hold 1st news conference since public backlash to enhanced police powers, playground closures

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to hold a virtual news conference Thursday morning, the first since his government faced backlash for introducing a number of additional COVID-19 restrictions that were not recommended by health experts and then nixed earlier this week.

Ford, who is currently isolating at his late mother’s home in Etobicoke after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, is scheduled to begin the media briefing at 9:45 a.m. ET.

You’ll be able to watch it live in this story. 

The premier and some of his top cabinet ministers have been under fire after announcing last Friday that the province would close playgrounds and hand police arbitrary powers, among other additional measures, in a bid to curb the third wave of the pandemic. 

The public outcry to both moves was so swift and fierce that the government reversed course on both within days of the announcement. Members of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table also disavowed the decisions, making clear in interviews with media that they were not based on their own recommendations to cabinet. 

Various sources close to the government told CBC News the decisions came amid panic over the latest modelling for the pandemic and fears that Ford’s approval among voters would suffer badly if he was not seen to be taking action.

Driven by variants of concern, the third wave has pushed Ontario’s health-care system to a breaking point. As of Wednesday, there were 2,335 people with COVID-19 in hospitals. Of those, 790 were in intensive care units and 566 required a ventilator to breathe, both new highs for the province.

Hospitals throughout the province have been ordered to stop all non-emergency surgeries amid a record number of patient transfers, as health networks try to cope with the influx of COVID-19 patients.

The provincial government has also faced mounting pressure to implement its own paid sick leave program for workers who fall ill with the disease or are exposed to someone with a confirmed case, something that public health experts and advocates have been demanding for months.

House Leader Paul Calandra said on Wednesday that the province would provide “enhancements” to the federal Canada recovery sickness benefit (CRSB) and that details would be announced “very, very soon.”

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