The next stage
Premier Doug Ford announced Toronto and Peel will join most of the rest of the province in stage two of reopening on Wednesday. The only region still in stage one is Windsor-Essex. Read more here.
In light of a spate of recent police controversies — including a Halton cop who was suspended with pay after repeatedly shoving a youth in a parking lot — Ford was asked if he would support chiefs having more power to suspend officers without pay. He said he'd like to sit down with the Police Association of Ontario and all the police chiefs to find out if that's something they'd like.
“They’re the experts and I want their input," he said.
However, the Ford government has passed legislation that would give chiefs broader powers to suspend officers without pay, it just hasn't proclaimed the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act yet. The legislation passed in 2019 and replaced a similar bill passed by the former Liberal government that was also never proclaimed into force.
As police come under renewed scrutiny around the world, there have been a number of police killings in Canada of people in mental health crises. Concerns have been raised about the effectiveness of the Special Investigations Unit, which probes police killings. The family of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who died in an interaction with the police inside her home, initially declined to speak to the SIU after a leak about the incident (though they have since confirmed that they will talk to the unit).
Ford said he had confidence in the SIU.
"They're a pretty tough unit," Ford said, adding that his "heart and prayers" go out to the family of Ejaz Ahmed Choudry, a 62-year-old man with schizophrenia who was killed by Peel Region police on Saturday after his relatives called a non-emergency number looking for help.
Ford called it a "terrible situation," but said he wants to wait for the SIU's report before "pointing fingers."
Beach parties in Toronto
“You look at the pictures, it looked like South Beach, Florida,” Ford said of photos and video of Toronto's packed Woodbine beach on the weekend. “Folks, I get it, you want to get out, hot day, there’s a beach. We’ve got to maybe come up with better protocols, I’ll talk to the mayor about it," he said.
Ford urged Ontarians to continue practicing social distancing, lest the province backslide.
“We’re winning the fight, but it’s not over. It could turn and bite us in the backside in about a heartbeat," he said.
Young people are making up a larger proportion of those infected with COVID-19 as the overall number of cases comes down, said Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe. She stressed that while young people generally experience mild symptoms, they should still follow social distancing rules to protect those around them who are more susceptible to the virus.
Yaffe added that Ontario is still not looking to fight the virus through herd immunity, which she said would require "at least 50 or 60 per cent of the population" to become infected. Right now that number is about 3 to 5 per cent, she said, so the province is still looking to "contain" the virus instead.
There are 86 fewer Ontarians hospitalized since last Thursday, and cases in long-term care are also steadily declining, Yaffe said. The number of tests completed has been above 20,000 per day since June 10.
"These numbers and trends are continuing in the right direction," she said, though she echoed Ford's point that Ontarians must remain vigilant.
Ford sidestepped questions about potential tax breaks for parents who have had to become teachers, and an idea to use empty buildings as schools to ensure students have enough space to social distance.
The province is "empowering" school boards to come up with their own plans for September, he said, so he'll wait to see what they propose before moving forward with other ideas.
Finance Minister Rod Phillips said he still plans to publicly name insurance companies that aren't providing rebates during the pandemic, when fewer people are driving and there are fewer accidents.
The Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario calculated that insurance holders are receiving on average about $150 in relief from their insurers. But Phillips has said only 10 out of 14 major insurers have provided rebates.
"People need to know which insurance companies are stepping up, and which are seeing the opportunity to help their customers now at this really important time, and which aren't," Phillips said.
Phillips said his constituents have complained "over and over again" about Desjardins, which they've told him hasn't provided rebates.
He said he'll name more companies that haven't stepped up to the plate in the future.
When is stage three coming?
With all but Windsor-Essex in stage two as of Wednesday, some regions that have been partially reopened are already looking ahead to the next step. Stage three will see "most remaining workplaces and community spaces" reopen, according to the government's plan, except for major events like concerts.
But first, the government is focused on getting Windsor-Essex into stage two, Elliott said. They are planning for stage three, but they can't move forward on that until the health outcomes of stage two have been measured, she said — including figuring out whether the province needs to stall at stage two for a while, or potentially close businesses or services that had reopened.
Ford was asked twice about rumours of a cabinet shuffle. He didn't confirm or deny one was coming, saying he was blessed with a great team and "20 caucus members who could jump into cabinet in a heartbeat and be just as good."