An exasperated Doug Ford let his frustration fly Tuesday at two rural mayors who protested his decision to hold back their areas from entering stage two of the province's economic reopening by getting haircuts.
The protest by Norfolk County Mayor Kristal Chopp and Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt was covered by local media, including CTV.
Making a statement with scissors: the mayors of Norfolk and Haldimand are getting haircuts to protest their regions being left out of the province’s stage two reopening. pic.twitter.com/HXUEnn5Ypz
— Krista Simpson (@KristaSimpson) June 9, 2020
At his daily press conference at Queen's Park, the premier noted the mayors and their local medical officer of health had, only weeks ago, threatened to fine people who visited cottages and seasonal residents, fearing an influx of COVID-19 would overwhelm their health-care capacity.
"It wasn't longer than two to three weeks ago, we had the two mayors from there, you know, I remember on TV shouting and screaming, saying they're going to fine any cottage that comes up. ‘We didn't have the capacity,’ they were saying, ‘We have one ventilator, we have a small hospital, we don't want anyone up there,'" he said. "And all of a sudden, bingo, they’re out there getting a haircut saying they want everyone to come up.
"I get it, things change, I get it. But like, you can't have it both ways," he continued.
"Give me a break, like really."
Ford had been asked about the decision to leave Haldimand-Norfolk and Niagara in stage one of the economic reopening process, which was reportedly made without consulting the mayors. Ford said it was necessary because both areas have seen recent spikes in COVID-19 cases.
"It'd be totally irresponsible for us to say ‘Okay, you know, that's fine, open it up,'" he said. "They were the last two mayors, in the whole province, out of 444 mayors, that I would think would be doing this. But no, this is a pandemic, it does strange things for people, I can't figure it out myself. You can't have your cake and eat it too. One way or another."
Weddings versus church services
The premier was also asked to clarify some of the reasons for specific rules in the stage-two reopening plan announced Monday, including why weddings can have a maximum of 10 people but churches can have 30 per cent occupancy for regular services.
"You know, when it comes to weddings, people congregate from all over the province, depending on who's invited," Ford said. "And for tracing purposes, it's a lot harder to track someone. As opposed to a church where everyone has to sign in, who shows up...That's the answer I got when I asked the question. It’s fair enough."
He was also asked why massages are allowed, but haircuts are only allowed for areas once they reach stage two — which will begin in some of the province on Friday.
For referred that to Health Minister Christine Elliott, who said the rationale had to with "physical proximity and closeness" and "face-to-face contact with other people."
"As we know, if someone sneezes there can be transmission of the virus, so we just have to be very careful, that's the basis upon which these decisions were made," she said.
Defunding the O.P.P.
Ford said Tuesday he opposes diverting money from the provincial police force.
"Oh, I don't believe in that for a second," he said, when asked if he would consider defunding the Ontario Provincial Police. "I think we need strong police within our communities. What we do need to do is have higher standards, we need to focus on more training.
"Get involved in the community, learning more about your community. That's what I believe in. But I just don't believe in, you know, cutting police budgets, just never believed in that."
Calls to defund police forces have intensified since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, sparking protests anew against police violence against Black people. Ford was also asked for his thoughts on the video of Floyd's death, with a police officer kneeling on his neck.
"Well everyone that saw that was — it was disgusting. It was heartbreaking," said Ford. "And I know a lot of police officers and I have yet to meet one police officer that didn't find that was absolutely terrible and disgusting and horrible. And that should never, ever, ever happen again."
NDP sick days
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath held a virtual press conference Tuesday calling on the premier to mandate paid sick leave for all workers, something the federal government has proposed, but Ford hasn't welcomed.
"Nobody should have to choose between going to work when they don't feel well, or being unable to put food on the table for their family, and unfortunately that's a situation that too many workers in our province face," Horwath said.
Horwath warned that people going to work sick could sabotage Ontario's recovery.
She also called on Ford to pay more attention to the safety of migrant workers, who have been hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks. "For migrant workers, that choice is even more gut-wrenching because they actually fear being fired for taking time off for sickness or even being deported.
"A couple of migrant workers have already lost their lives, which is tragic," she said. "And what we need to do is make sure we're stamping out those hotspots and saving lives and saving the health of thousands of migrant workers."