Ontario Premier Doug Ford wants the federal government to cut a cheque and let the provinces decide where the federal transfers will be spent.
Ford made the comments on Thursday after his government announced an additional $150 million for the Social Services Relief Fund, which helps municipalities deal with COVID-19 related costs.
“We need the flexibility to put the money where it’s needed, we will work within the guidelines,” Ford said during a media briefing from Queen’s Park.
“It’s simple, hand us over a cheque based on per capita.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered provinces and territories up to $14-billion in new federal transfers if they work with Ottawa on a “safe-restart agreement.”
“Just cut us a cheque, you’re talking to 13 premiers who know where their needs are,” Ford said.
Meanwhile, the province is giving municipalities an additional $150-million under the Social Services Relief Fund for “innovative ideas.”
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, said the money is meant to protect vulnerable people from COVID-19 by improving homeless shelters and creating opportunities for longer-term housing.
“We know that municipal and Indigenous partners are facing extraordinary challenges due to this global pandemic,” Clark said.
Municipalities can use the money to renovate shelters or purchase new facilities that will help with physical distancing.
Ford won’t throw farmers under the bus
The local public health unit in Windsor-Essex ordered a work stoppage at a farm experiencing a large outbreak of COVID-19 on the weekend.
Officials recorded 191 cases of the virus at the farm.
Ford said he wouldn’t “throw farmers under the bus,” when asked if he would name the farm.
“These workers need to get tested … and it doesn’t help that the local health unit is shutting down farms,” Ford said.
The Premier also confirmed that some agri-farm workers were hiding from health officials.
“The workers are terrified they will be sent home it’s a difficult situation, but we’re all over it, we have translators down there trying to get through this.”
Ontario sees 302 new cases over the past two days
Ontario reported 153 new COVID-19 cases today and 149 cases on Wednesday.
The total number of confirmed cases in the province stands at 35,370 with 86.9 considered resolved.
Minister of Health Christine Elliott tweeted that 29 of Ontario’s 34 public health units reported five or fewer cases, with 23 reporting no new cases at all.
Elliott was not at Thursday’s media briefing. Ford said the Deputy Premier is taking some “well deserved” time-off.
Change of leadership at Public Health Ontario
President and CEO of Public Health Ontario, Dr. Peter Donnelly, is stepping down from his role due to health reasons.
Donnelly has been on medical leave since early April.
“Having experienced cardiac symptoms over a number of weeks, it is now clear that it is important for me to return to the United Kingdom where all of my family are based,” Donnelly said in a news release.
Colleen Geiger, who has been serving as acting president and CEO since Donnelly left on medical leave, will continue in the role.
Launch of contact tracing app postponed
The mobile app to help with contact tracing of COVID-19 cases in Ontario will not be available today as planned.
“Ontario is ready, we will wait for the feds to launch this and we support them … I think they have to wait for some other provinces to get on board and then we’re good,” Ford said.
A new date for the launch has not been announced.
Ford has said the app could play a key role in helping contain the spread of COVID-19 as more businesses reopen.
The app will notify users based on a number of criteria, including if they’ve been within two metres of a person who tests positive for the virus and if that contact took place over an extended period of time.