Overnight camps will remain closed this summer, Premier Doug Ford announced. But as long as COVID-19 numbers continue trending in the right direction, summer day camps could reopen by July or August, he said.
“Unfortunately, we just can’t have camps with 500 kids living together right now,” Ford said, extending his sympathy to parents and children.
“I know it’s hard at home right now,” he said. Parents are “champions” who are “going above and beyond” right now by juggling child-care, homeschooling and sometimes work of their own, he added.
But they and their kids can look forward to day camps “with strict — and I repeat, strict public health measures in place,” Ford said.
The premier also acknowledged that little kids who have been cooped up for months will likely not be the best at following strict social distancing guidelines when presented with a room full of other children. But he said regional public health officers will decide when their local day camps can open, and that if infection rates start to spike, he won't hesitate to reverse course.
“A message to all these landlords: don’t force my hand."
Amid reports that some commercial landlords aren't planning to apply for the federal-provincial aid program which would over 75 per cent of their tenants' rent, Ford said he's hoping he won't have to intervene to prevent more small businesses from being evicted.
"Don’t force my hand," he repeated. "Work things out, because I’m trying to compromise here. We’re giving you 75 per cent of what you’re asking for. And like I said last week: nothing drives me more crazy than greedy landlords that are taking advantage of people and small business owners that are just trying to keep their head above water.”
Ford said he'll wait to see how landlords react as the relief program rolls out, and that he hopes they will be able to work something out with their tenants.
“I’m trying to avoid bringing down the hammer on these landlords. I want to make sure people work things out,” he said.
“It’s not like they have a lineup of businesses waiting to get into their facility," he added, noting that it would be better for landlords to get 75 per cent of their rent than nothing.
“I’m trying to be fair, but don’t push me. These big landlords want to take advantage of small little companies and people that are struggling? I’m going to come down on them like they’ve never seen before. Cooperate.”
Reopening for the rich?
With golf courses, marinas, nannies and house cleaners on the approved list, the Ford government has faced criticism that the reopening has so far benefited rich people more than others.
“There’s a big difference between a daycare with multiple kids and a nanny taking care of one or two children,” Ford said in response to a question about why the latter was allowed, while the former remained closed.
He added that if any small businesses have concerns about their ability to safely reopen, they should not do so.
Emergency orders extended
On the first day of the province's gradual reopening, the Ford government extended its emergency orders until May 29, meaning bars and restaurants will remain closed except for takeout and delivery, and social gatherings are still restricted to five people.
Some outdoor recreational amenities, including outdoor sports facilities and multi-use fields, off-leash dog areas, and outdoor picnic sites, benches and shelters in parks and recreational areas, are now allowed to reopen.
Things like outdoor playgrounds, play structures and equipment, fitness equipment, public swimming pools, splash pads and other outdoor water facilities remain closed.
Religious institutions will also be allowed to hold drive-in gatherings — as long as cars are only filled with members of the same household, vehicles stay two metres apart, and no one exits them, except for a maximum of five people conducting the service.
"Our government recognizes the importance that Ontarians place on participating in religious services," Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said.
Ford said urban religious institutions without access to their own parking lots could possibly rent one out.
“Sure, if they want to go to a parking lot — there’s a lot of empty parking lots right now — and hold a church service, that’s fine, but I’d like to confirm that with my health table first,” he said.
No rush on testing centres
Ontarians didn't rush to COVID-19 assessment centres in large numbers over the long weekend, according to the province's top doctor.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said in a briefing Tuesday that even though the province opened up the criteria for who can be tested for the novel coronavirus to all people with symptoms, there wasn't a "large inflow" of people rushing to get tested over the long weekend.
In fact, the province announced only 5,813 test results on Tuesday, far below its capacity of approximately 20,000. Williams said that means the province has another opportunity to look at its testing strategy and see what areas of priority should be focussed on.
It comes as the testing of every long-term care resident and staff member in the province is nearly complete.
Turning his attention to the spread of the virus out in the community, rather than institutions such as long-term care homes, Williams said Ontario must "be much more adept at getting granular on the data." He said this means proactively looking for outbreaks tied to specific events or locations, which he said public health workers can focus on now that they are not spending so much time doing the testing in long-term care.
Williams also said there will be likely more news to come this week on whether or not people will be allowed to expand their "bubbles" or gather in groups larger than five. He said that issue is actively being discussed, but the decision has not yet been finalized.
PC MPP apologizes to Muslim group
A press release from PC MPP Gila Martow about a man preaching "anti-Zionist propaganda" outside an Islamic community centre prompted a demand for an apology from the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). In a joint statement with the council and community centre, Martow said she "apologizes for any hurt she caused" the community.
A video posted to YouTube on Saturday, titled "Jaffari center Athan/ Nakba 72 catastrophe anniversary. Praying for corona vaccine & free Palestine," shows a man calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine outside the Islamic Shia Ithna-Asheri Jamaat, also known as the Jaffari Islamic Community Centre, in Vaughan's Thornhill Woods neighbourhood.
“I am disappointed that this gentleman used his alleged permission from the City of Vaughan to spew anti-Zionist propaganda and anti-Semitic tropes with no regard for the vast majority of Vaughan residents who support living together in peace," said Martow, the MPP for Thornhill in a release on Sunday. "It is equally unfortunate that he would use a prayer for victims of COVID-19 to promote intolerance and misinformation about international legal issues. I certainly hope that this gentleman’s message of intolerance and misinformation is not shared by the membership and families of the Jaffari Centre. I look forward to meaningful dialogue with them in the near future.”
If Martow had checked with the Jaffari Centre before issuing her release, she would have found that the man in the video had "no authorization" to speak on behalf of the centre, NCCM CEO Mustafa Farooq said in a release.
“Putting out a press release without getting all the facts straight — and without even endeavouring to do so — is simply unacceptable,” Farooq said.
In the parties' joint statement says the man in the video is not affiliated with the community centre and the video was "not sanctioned by the organization. The ISIJ does not permit trespassing."
"As well, the ISIJ and NCCM wish to reaffirm their commitment to stand against all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism, as they stand with their Jewish brothers and sisters against intolerance," it reads.
Martow thanked the centre and council for their "understanding and willingness to confront intolerance. She also commits to contacting representatives of the organizations directly should any further unfortunate incidents occur, and apologizes for any hurt she caused to the community of the Jaffari Community Centre," the statement reads.
Martow said she is "pleased with the statement, especially their declaration against anti-Semitism. I thought it was a very positive step forward."
With files from Jessica Smith Cross