Ontario Premier Doug Ford apologized to Ontarians Thursday morning for a number of additional COVID-19 restrictions that were quickly withdrawn after his government faced intense public backlash over them.
“Simply put, we got it wrong. We made a mistake,” Ford said. “We moved fast to put in measures in place to reduce mobility. But we moved too fast. And I know that some of those measures, especially around enforcement, they went too far,” Ford said.
This was the premier’s first public appearance in almost a week. He was last seen a news conference on Friday at which his government announced some controversial COVID-19 restrictions including closing playgrounds and giving the police powers to randomly stop people to question them about why they were not at home.
Local police services were quick to to say no to these random stops. The Science Table that advises the province on the pandemic also clarified that they had not recommended closing playgrounds. “Policies that discourage safe outdoor activity will not control COVID-19 and will disproportionately harm children and those who do not have access to their own greenspace, especially those living in crowded conditions,” they said. The advisory board also advocated for faster vaccinations and paid sick leave for essential workers.
At the virtual news conference from his late mother’s home in Etobicoke, where he is isolating after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, Ford said he wanted to “address the events of this past week” and the new measures his government had announced in response to “extremely troubling modelling.”
He said the province was trying to curb mobility in Ontario.
The premier also said that his government is working on “best program anywhere in North America” after pushing back on the need for a provincial paid sick leave program for months.
The Ford government has attempted to explain the about turn as a response to a gap in the sickness benefits in the federal budget announced on Monday.
At one point during Thursday’s news conference, Ford appeared to cry while talking about the pandemic and how hard it has been for businesses, health-care workers and families.
Apologizing for his emotional state, the premier said, “this experience, this pandemic, it’s something that has affected every single person”.
Ford didn’t divulge any details about the provincial paid sick leave program even when pressed repeatedly by reporters. “We are going to take action ourself. And we will have the best program anywhere in North America, bar none,” he said.