Ford, Trudeau address protests
Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began their respective daily press conferences by acknowledging the protests happening across the U.S., Canada and the world, and condemning racism.
"Racism and hatred has no place in our province, and as premier I have absolutely zero — I repeat, zero tolerance for anyone targeting the Black community or any minority group. I just won't stand for it, and we won't stand for it as a province," Ford said.
"Anti-Black racism is real. Unconscious bias is real. Systemic discrimination is real. And they happen here, in Canada," Trudeau said.
Trudeau was asked whether he thought his repeated use of blackface when he was younger diminished his ability to provide leadership on the topic of anti-racism.
The prime minister noted that he's apologized many times for his past actions, "but at the same time, we need to focus on doing better every single day, regardless of what we did or hadn’t done in our past."
Gas tax advance for municipalities
Trudeau announced Canadian municipalities will receive their gas tax money in one advance lump sum of $2.2 billion, instead of split into two payments like normal. The full amount is available now, he said, to provide stability to communities whose budgets have been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ford was appreciative of the advance, but said the feds need to spend more cash that hasn't already been allocated.
"That money's already in the budgets of these municipalities, so it's not new money. We need new money," he said, noting that Ontario's share of the $2.2 billion will be $813 million.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said Toronto's shortfall alone will hit $1.5 billion under the "best-case scenario."
Trudeau said this announcement was a first step in the federal government's support for municipalities. More will be coming soon, but those announcements will require input from the provinces — who he called on to "step up."
“Cities are the responsibility of the provinces. The federal government will be there to work with the provinces to support, to help flow money, but the provinces need to step up as well and that’s what we’re discussing right now,” he said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also called on Ford to "step up" and help municipalities.
“Families count on their local governments to provide essential services like child care, public transit and public health. All those services are now at risk as municipalities sink into the red, and Doug Ford needs to stop pretending that it’s Ottawa’s responsibility alone to throw them a lifeline,” Horwath said in a release.
Green Leader Mike Schreiner said the Tories should double provincial gas tax funding, which is separate from the federal gas tax. The province's tax is estimated to generate $642 million this year, Schreiner said.
"I’ve been disappointed that the province has been so slow to answer the call from Ontario’s large urban mayors for cashflow relief to get back on solid financial footing," he said in a release. "A strong municipal sector will be essential to a safe economic recovery."
Ombudsman report on long-term care
Ontario's ombudsman has launched an investigation into the oversight of long-term care homes by the province.
Paul Dubé will be looking into the Ministry of Long-Term Care and Ministry of Health's actions during the pandemic — "on his own initiative," his office announced in a news release. The investigation comes after the report from the Canadian military about brutal conditions in some of the hardest-hit nursing homes.
“The Canadian Armed Forces report painted a stunning portrait of the situation in long-term care during this crisis; our investigation will look at the systemic issues that led to it, and will make constructive recommendations for corrective action,” Dubé said. “Determining the root causes of administrative dysfunction and recommending practical solutions is what we do.”
Among other things, Dubé's office said investigators they will look at complaint handling, inspections carried out by the ministry of long-term care, emergency planning, steps taken to support long-term care homes during the COVID-19 crisis, collection of data on coronavirus cases, rates of infection and deaths in long-term care, and communication with long-term care home residents, staff and the public.
“Let's be very clear, I welcome that," Ford said of the investigation, noting that these issues have gone unfixed for decades.
"I need answers. I want answers," he said.
Horwath said she too welcomes the ombudsman's investigation, but repeated her call for a public inquiry.
"While we’re hopeful this report can provide some answers and accountability, the Official Opposition believes a comprehensive, find-and-fix judicial public inquiry is necessary to evaluate the very foundations of the long-term care system in Ontario. We believe that’s the only way we’ll spark the overhaul that’s needed — which we believe should include getting for-profit corporations out of long-term care," she said.
Schreiner also once again called for a public inquiry.
"The Ombudsman’s independent work could prove very important in exposing what caused the tragedy in many of our long term care homes," he said. "I remain worried that a government controlled commission will not be transparent, could downplay the government’s contributions to the crisis and will not have a broad scope of investigation.”
The province finally hit its highest goal of 20,000 tests per day on Friday. Ford said he was pleased with the "really good numbers."
He also noted that a mobile testing unit will start up in Scarborough tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1250 Markham Road.
“Please, if you feel like you have symptoms and you want to go get tested, please go get tested. And even if you don’t feel like you have symptoms, I'd encourage you to go get tested,” Ford said.
Where there's Smokey, there's fire
Ford tried to make nice with Smokey Thomas, the head of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, after the premier blamed OPSEU inspectors last week for the lack of long-term care inspections, saying the workers refused to go into the facilities. Thomas denied this in a blistering news release shortly after Ford's comments on Thursday.
Ford called Thomas and OPSEU official Bob Eaton "absolute champions," and thanked them for their leadership.
“I know we had a little bump there, but I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you, the job you're doing, the sacrifices that you put in day in and day out,” Ford said.