Ontario Premier Doug Ford continued to deliver harsh criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump's move to stop the export of medical masks to Canada, calling it an "unacceptable" step on Saturday.
3M, an American multi-national company that makes medical masks along with other goods, announced on Friday that the Trump administration had asked the company to "cease exporting" N95 masks it manufactures in the U.S. to other countries including Canada. The company acknowledged in a statement that this could have "significant humanitarian implications" since it is a "critical supplier of respirators" in these other countries.
"When you sit back and you think of your allies and the wars we’ve gone through and we’ve stood shoulder-to-shoulder fighting the same enemies, and now we have an enemy and we’re at war and they want to shut things down with their closest ally in the world, that’s unacceptable," said Ford during his regular afternoon press conference.
The premier likened the decision by U.S. officials to telling a family member "OK, see you later, you go starve and we’ll feast on the rest of the meal," and noted the thousands of health-care workers that cross the border from Windsor each day to work in U.S. health facilities.
"How would the people in Michigan feel...if all of a sudden we said, 'the 1000 nurses, we’re in desperate need, you need to stay here in Ontario and you’re not going down to Michigan,'" said Ford. "Would that be a wake-up call for them? But it shouldn’t come down to that."
The premier said on Friday that Ontario had "a couple million masks on order with 3M" and that he would be following up with the company on this. The premier said he spoke with 3M Canada President Penny Wise twice on Saturday morning, but didn't receive the news he wanted.
"I'm very very concerned, our order hasn’t been filled yet," said Ford, adding that he was grateful to 3M for "disagreeing with the presidential order."
"Her hands are tied right now based...she knows how important it is, the Canadian market to 3M, and she’s doing everything she can," said Ford. "Physically they’re kind of stuck when you get the presidential order, you just can’t ship items out."
He acknowledged the federal government's efforts to address the issue. Earlier in the day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government was in discussions with U.S. officials and have been stressing the fact that the U.S. is not just hurting Canada, but also itself through this decision. They highlighted the large amounts of resources, products and services that flow across the border, both ways, he said.
Trudeau said he would be speaking with Trump "in the coming days," but that his government is "not looking at retaliatory measures or measures that are punitive."
Meanwhile, Trudeau also said the government was expecting to receive millions of masks from China through a chartered flight shipment that would also include supplies the Quebec government has ordered.
Ford said he hoped the federal government's incoming supplies would be divided "proportionally" amongst the province.
"We need those masks. I’ll be on the phone all day, all night if I have to, I’ll be like a dog on a bone to these folks to get this thing going," he said.
Federal approvals pending
While Ford praised the federal government for its efforts throughout the press conference, the premier also voiced frustration over waiting for federal regulatory approvals of supplies, like masks, that he wants to see produced in Ontario.
"We have great people with Health Canada and I know they’re inundated, but we have to get Health Canada approval on these masks and a few other items," he said, referring to a company in Woodbridge that is looking to make N95-like masks. "I can’t stand relying on other countries and other leaders when we have the capabilities right here in Ontario."
Ford said he's willing to call the prime minister or Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland "10 times a day" to speed up the approval process.
The Ontario government issued its second message about the COVID-19 pandemic through its emergency alert system on Saturday.
It read: "Stop the spread, COVID-19 can be deadly, the time to act is now. Everyone but essential workers need to stay home. Only go out if absolutely necessary to pick up groceries, prescriptions or to go to the medical appointments that you have. Ignoring self-isolation or physical distancing advice can have devastating effects and danger lives. Protect yourself and others. Stay home."
Referencing the modelling information released by the province on Friday, Ford said the numbers show tens of thousands of lives are at stake, but that Ontarians "have the power to flatten the curve."
"Right now as a province, we are in the fight of our lives. And the difference between winning this fight and losing this fight is the different between life and death. And in this battle we can’t, we wont leave anything on the table," he said, announcing that the government's latest effort would be the new emergency alert.
"If it takes standing here every single day, if it takes mass messages to every single person in Ontario to save even one life, I’m prepared to do that," he said.
Asked whether he was concerned about increased looting with fewer places open and fewer people out at night, Ford said his government has had conversations with chiefs of police about this.
He said it's for this reasons that it's "absolutely critical" food and other items are available on store shelves.
"If you don’t, you have civil disobedience, turns into anarchy, that’s unacceptable," he said. "We aren’t that type of people. There may be...the odd bad apple out there, but there’s no reason to be breaking in anywhere. We have enough supplies, we have the food, you might have to wait in line like all of us do."
In an effort to keep the food supply chain going, the government launched a new online portal on Saturday to connect those looking for work with jobs in the agriculture and food industry.
"Right now, there are important jobs that need to be filled across the food supply chain and we are looking for individuals who embody the Ontario spirit to step up and provide an essential service," said Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman. "From farm to fork, it's these dedicated heroes in the agri-food sector who are working through this difficult period each and every day to keep food on our kitchen tables."
Government officials were asked whether long-term care homes were being directed to keep residents with COVID-19 in their facilities rather than being transferred to hospitals, with Health Minister Christine Elliott saying the government did not order this.
"If people are ill enough that they need to go to hospital, of course they will be transported to hospital," Elliott said. "If they are showing symptoms of COVID-19 if they’ve been diagnosed with it, but they can be maintained with self-isolation within the home, we’ll do that too, but no one is going to be denied access to health care if they need it."
She added that they're trying to increase testing in these facilities along with contact tracing, and that medical students are helping out with this.
Pub night off limits in seniors' homes: Ford
Reacting to a report that a Niagara Falls retirement home held a pub night for its residents last weekend, Ford said "you've got to be kidding me."
He said retirement homes shouldn't be holding pub nights especially when health officials are advising everyone to continue practicing physical distancing measures.
"They have to answer some questions," said Ford. "Who came up with this idea of having a pub night?"