Enhancement of federal paid sick leave program coming: Ontario government house leader

Paul Calandra says province needs to supplement federal plan

The devil will be in the details, but the Ford government said Wednesday it will be coming forward with an announcement about “additional enhancements in the very near future” to the federal paid sick days program.

Government house leader Paul Calandra hinted something was in the pipeline when pressed in the legislature by NDP leader Andrea Horwath as to whether the Ford government would bring paid sick days to Ontario.

“We were disappointed that the federal budget did not include some of the enhancements we asked for, that we were assured would be in the budget, and given that those enhancements we have advocated for (weren’t included) we have been very clear that the government of Ontario would be coming forward with additional enhancements in the very near future.”

“It’s very clear we need to supplement the original plan that was negotiated by the premier. Given the $700 million surplus in that program, and given the failure of the federal government to move on it, we will be moving on it very quickly.”

The lack of paid sick days has been labelled as a major issue driving the spread of COVID-19 during this third wave. Even the panel of scientific experts advising the premier released a report Tuesday calling for a provincial emergency benefit that would offer more money than the federal program, and be available to all essential workers.

Last November at a meeting of Ontario’s Big City Mayors, Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman got unanimous support for his motion calling on the Ontario and federal governments to immediately implement paid sick leave, to protect especially low income and essential workers.

In one of its first acts after taking office in 2018, the Ford government got rid of a paid sick leave program introduced by the previous Liberal government.