Transcript: Sick Days in Pandemic Hot Zones | Apr 13, 2021

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Sick days in pandemic hot zones. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says THEY ARE WAREHOUSE STAFF, TRUCK DRIVERS, FACTORY WORKERS, FOOD PROCESSORS, AND GIG ECONOMY FOLKS... PEOPLE WHO CAN'T WORK FROM HOME, WHO ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE ECONOMY. AND ESPECIALLY IN THIS THIRD WAVE WITH THE VARIANTS OF CONCERN, THEY'RE GETTING COVID-19. THAT'S ALL LED TO A PRETTY HEFTY DEBATE ABOUT SICK DAYS. WITH US NOW TO ASSESS WHAT'S AT STAKE, IN THE EAST END OF ONTARIO'S CAPITAL CITY, MARCY BURCHFIELD, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE TORONTO REGION BOARD OF TRADE AND ITS ECONOMIC BLUEPRINT INSTITUTE.

Marcy is in her forties, with shoulder-length dark red hair. She's wearing glasses, a silver pendant necklace and a black blouse.

Steve continues AND DANIEL SAFAYENI, VICE PRESIDENT OF POLICY AT THE ONTARIO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE...

Daniel is in his thirties, clean-shaven, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing glasses, a gray suit and a white shirt.

Steve continues AND JOINING US IN LITTLE ITALY, THERE'S SHEILA BLOCK, SENIOR ECONOMIST AT THE CANADIAN CENTRE FOR POLICY ALTERNATIVES...

Sheila is in her fifties, with short white hair. She's wearing glasses, a black blazer and a printed blue blouse.

Steve continues WE'RE HAPPY TO WELCOME MARCY AND SHEILA TO OUR PROGRAM AGAIN AND DANIEL, YOU FOR THE FIRST TIME. GLAD TO HAVE YOU ALL ABOARD. WE JUST WANT TO OPEN UP OUR DISCUSSION HERE BY MY ASKING OUR DIRECTOR SHELDON OSMOND TO BRING UP A GRAPHIC, A WIDE SHOT OF THE CITY OF TORONTO, HERE WE GO, ZOOMING INTO I GUESS WHAT THEY CALL THE PEARSON EMPLOYMENT AREA ZONE.

A satellite view of Toronto appears on screen, then homes in on the Pearson Employment Area Pilot Zone, surrounding the Toronto Pearson Airport, marked in blue.

Steve says TORONTO PEARSON AIRPORT RIGHT THERE, AND FOR THE PURPOSES OF OUR DISCUSSION TONIGHT, MARCY, WHY DON'T YOU START BY TELLING US WHY THIS ZONE IS OF SUCH SIGNIFICANCE FOR THE PURPOSES OF OUR CONVERSATION.

The caption changes to "Marcy Burchfield. Toronto Region Board of Trade. @burchfie."
Then, it changes again to "Working where Covid-19 is."

Marcy says SURE, STEVE. SO THE UNIT I RUN AT THE TORONTO REGIONAL BOARD OF... IS A FAIRLY NEW UNIT AND WE'RE REALLY HERE TO PROVIDE A DATA-DRIVEN PICTURE OF OUR REGIONAL ECONOMY, AND LAST FALL WE RELEASED A REPORT CALLED "SHAPING OUR FUTURE," AND IN THAT REPORT, WHICH WAS REALLY ABOUT HOW THE PANDEMIC HAS AFFECTED CITIES ACROSS OUR METROPOLITAN AREA, IN THAT REPORT WE INTRODUCED FIVE BUSINESS DISTRICTS IN WHICH WE FOUND THAT 75 percent OF ALL JOBS IN OUR REGION ARE WITHIN ONE OF THESE BUSINESS DISTRICTS. AND WHAT WE'VE DISCOVERED IS THERE'S BEEN AN UNEVEN ECONOMIC IMPACT IN EACH ONE OF THESE DISTRICTS, AND ONE REPORT THAT WE FOCUSED ON WAS THE GOOD DISTRICTS. THAT'S WHERE YOU SAY THE MANUFACTURING IS HAPPENING, THE WAREHOUSES ARE HAPPENING, THE LOGISTIC CENTRES ARE ALL IN THESE AREAS, AND IN PEEL IN PARTICULAR IN THE GOODS DISTRICT AND IN THE AREA AROUND THE AIRPORT THERE'S OVER 180,000 JOBS IN PARTICULAR THAT CANNOT BE DONE REMOTELY, AND WHAT WE FOUND IN THAT AREA WHEN WE DUG A LITTLE DEEPER IN THE DATA IS THAT WE FOUND THAT 60 percent OF THE WORKERS CANNOT BE... 60 percent OF THE WORK CANNOT BE DONE REMOTELY, AND WHEN WE DUG A LITTLE DEEPER AS TO WHO WAS BEING IMPACTED IN PARTICULAR, WE WERE ABLE TO LOOK AT THE PEOPLE WHO WERE COMING IN AND OUT OF THIS DISTRICT AND WHERE THEY WERE COMING FROM. 40 percent OF THE WORKERS WERE COMING FROM BRAMPTON, 16 percent OF THE WORKERS WERE COMING FROM MISSISSAUGA, 17 percent OF THE WORKERS WERE COMING FROM THE CITY OF TORONTO IN THE SORT OF NORTHWEST AREA OF TORONTO. AND WHAT WE FOUND WAS THAT MANY OF THESE WORKERS, AS YOU SAY, TRUCK DRIVERS, FOOD AND BEVERAGE MANUFACTURING, HANDLERS, MATERIAL HANDLERS, ALL THESE FOLKS COULD NOT STOP WORKING DURING THIS PERIOD OF TIME. THEY WERE DEEMED ESSENTIAL WORKERS, AND MANY OF THESE WORKERS WERE ACTUALLY COMING FROM THE COMMUNITIES THAT WE'VE SEEN IN OUR MAPS THAT ARE HIGH COVID IMPACT COMMUNITIES, AND SO WHAT THIS RESEARCH SHOWED IS THAT AS GOVERNMENTS HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT VACCINE ROLLOUT FOR OUR MOST VULNERABLE, YOU KNOW, BY AGE AND BY OCCUPATION, WHAT OUR RESEARCH REVEALED IS WHEN YOU COMBINE PLACE OF WORK INFORMATION WITH PLACE OF RESIDENCE INFORMATION OF WHO IS BEING IMPACTED, IT REALLY SPEAKS TO THE NEED FOR GOVERNMENTS AND BUSINESSES TO WORK TOGETHER AS PART OF THE VACCINE ROLLOUT.

Steve says OKAY, LET ME DO A QUICK FOLLOW-UP ON THAT. HAS THE FLOW OF PEOPLE INTO AND OUT OF THIS AREA CHANGED AT ALL SINCE COVID MORE THAN A YEAR AGO.

Marcy says WHEN COVID FIRST HIT, LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE SHUTDOWN, THE TRANSPORTATION PATTERNS DROPPED COMPLETELY. BUT BY... IT REBOUNDS VERY QUICKLY AFTER THE LOCKDOWN, THE FIRST LOCKDOWN WAS OVER, AND IT NEVER WENT BELOW 5 percent OF PREVIOUS ACTIVITY. WE NEVER WENT BELOW 5 percent PREVIOUS ACTIVITY OF PEOPLE MOVING IN AND OUT OF THAT DISTRICT, MEANING THAT ALL WORKERS HAD TO GO IN AND OUT OF THIS DISTRICT FOR WORK.

Steve says HMM. OKAY, FOLLOWING UP WITH YOU THEN, SHEILA, SHOULD WE BE SURPRISED THAT PER CAPITA THIS AREA HAD ONE OF THE HIGHEST COVID-19 OUTBREAKS ANYWHERE IN THE PROVINCE?

The caption changes to "Sheila Block. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives."

Sheila says ABSOLUTELY NOT BECAUSE WHAT WE ALSO KNOW ABOUT THESE KINDS OF WORKPLACES IS THEY ARE VERY OFTEN LOW-WAGE WORK, HIGHLY RACIALIZED AND LARGE SHARE OF IMMIGRANTS, AND SO WE KNOW THAT THESE WORKFORCES ARE PEOPLE WHO CANNOT WORK FROM HOME, WHO CANNOT AFFORD TO STAY HOME IF THEY ARE SICK, IF THEY DON'T HAVE PAID SICK DAYS, AND SO ARE, THEREFORE... NEED TO KEEP THAT MONEY COMING AND NEED TO BE IN THE WORKPLACE.

Steve says WE'RE GOING TO GET TO THE PARTICULARS OF THE SICK DAY DEBATE IN JUST A SECOND, BUT AGAIN WE JUST SORT OF WANT TO SET UP THE BACKGROUND FOR THIS. DANIEL, LET ME GO TO YOU NEXT. WHAT ARE YOU HEARING FROM THE BUSINESSES THAT YOUR ORGANIZATION REPRESENTS IN TERMS OF WHAT THEY ARE DOING, I GUESS IF YOU CAN PUT THE ACCENT ON THE AREA IN QUESTION THAT WE'VE BEEN DISCUSSING, BUT GENERALLY SPEAKING IS OKAY AS WELL. WHAT ARE THEY DOING TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF COVID IN THE WORKPLACE?

The caption changes to "Daniel Safayeni. Ontario Chamber of Commerce."

Daniel says LOOK, FIRST OF ALL, AS WE'VE SAID, STEVE, FROM THE OUTSET OF THE CRISIS THAT PRIORITIZING PUBLIC HEALTH IS GOING TO BE OUR ONLY PATH TO A FULSOME ECONOMIC RECOVERY WHEN THAT TIME COMES, AND OUR BUSINESSES HAVE BEEN EXTRAORDINARILY VIGILANT AND PATIENT WITH CHANGING GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS, MODIFIED LOCKDOWN GUIDELINES, AND YOU KNOW, WE'VE SEEN A REALLY DEDICATED ATTEMPT FOR BUSINESSES TO FOLLOW WHATEVER THE PUBLIC HEALTH GUIDELINES ARE TO ENSURE THAT THEIR STAFFS ARE TRAINED, TO ENSURE THAT THEY'VE BOUGHT THE NECESSARY PPE GEAR TO KEEP FOLKS SAFE, AND I THINK ONE THING THAT'S WORTH UNDERSCOING HERE FOR YOUR AUDIENCE IS THERE REALLY IS NO EASY ON AND OFF SWITCH FOR BUSINESSES WHO SUDDENLY FIND THEMSELVES IN A POSITION THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN TO SUDDENLY RAMP DOWN OPERATIONS BECAUSE OF A NEW SHUTDOWN ORDER. AND SO YOU KNOW, THERE'S PALPABLE FRUSTRATION WITHIN THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY ABOUT WHAT GOVERNS OR INFORMS THE GOVERNMENT DECISION REGARDING A SHUTDOWN OR A LOCKDOWN, AND THERE'S A REAL NEED FOR MORE CLARITY, CONSISTENCY AND PREDICTABILITY AROUND THESE THINGS, AND I THINK THAT WOULD IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENT FOR BOTH EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES.

Steve says WELL, DANIEL, LET ME FOLLOW UP ON THE ISSUE OF VACCINES WITH YOU. BECAUSE AS WE KNOW OVER THE LAST I GUESS COUPLE OF WEEKS IN PARTICULAR WE'RE REALLY TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW THE VACCINE ROLLOUT OUGHT TO WORK IN THIS PROVINCE, AND OF COURSE LAST WEEK THERE WAS A SIGNIFICANT DECISION BY THE PROVINCE TO, AGAIN HERE'S THE WORD OF THE CENTURY NOW, PIVOT, PIVOT TO WHAT WE WERE DOING TO WHAT WE ARE DOING RIGHT NOW IN TERMS OF WHO'S ELIGIBLE. I'M WONDERING IF YOU CAN TELL ME WHETHER BUSINESSES HAVE EVER CONSIDERED BEING THE PLACES WHERE VACCINES CAN BE ADMINISTERED.

The caption changes to "Daniel Safayeni, @Dsafayeni."

Daniel says IT'S A GREAT QUESTION, STEVE, AND FIRST OF ALL ON THAT FIRST POINT THAT YOU MAKE, WE WERE HAPPY TO SEE THE PRIORITIZATION OF ESSENTIAL WORKERS AS BEING MOVED UP EARLIER IN PHASE TWO, STILL WAITING FOR MORE DETAILS EXACTLY ON HOW THAT LOOKS LIKE PROVINCE-WIDE. BUT LOOK, WE'VE HAD A NUMBER OF BUSINESSES RAISE THEIR HANDS AND SAID... AND SAY WE CAN DO THIS WHEN THE TIMING IS RIGHT, BUT REALLY RIGHT NOW THE FOCUS ON THE... OF THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE HAS BEEN HOW CAN WE HELP WITH THE LOCAL PUBLIC HEALTH UNIT DISTRIBUTION AND VACCINATION CAMPAIGNS, AND WHAT WE'VE DONE TO THAT END IS PUT TOGETHER A COUNCIL OF SOME 250 BUSINESSES, POST-SECONDARY UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES, LABOUR UNIONS, ASSOCIATIONS, ALL OF THEM WILLING TO VOLUNTEER OR DONATE RESOURCES TO THEIR LOCAL PUBLIC HEALTH UNITS WHO MIGHT HAVE DIFFERENT NEEDS. AND JUST TO GIVE YOUR AUDIENCE ONE EXAMPLE OF SOME OF THESE CONCRETE WINS THAT THE GROUP HAS HAD, THE CO-CHAIR OF THE COUNCIL, BRUCE POWER, WORKED WITH THEIR LOCAL PUBLIC HEALTH UNIT IN GREY BRUCE TO DEVELOP A MASS IMMUNIZATION HUB. THIS HAS BEEN NOW KNOWN AS A HOCKEY HUB BECAUSE BASICALLY WHAT IT DOES IS IT USES A STANDARD-SIZED HOCKEY ARENA THAT YOU HAVE IN ANY TOWN ACROSS ONTARIO, AND BY USING ECONOMIES OF SCALE AND SOME CLEVER DESIGN AND WORKING WITH LOCAL PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS, THEY'VE DESIGNED A SCALEABLE AND EFFICIENT VACCINE HUB THAT CAN INOCULATE 4500 PEOPLE IN ONE DAY, AND IT WORKS. AND WE KNOW IT WORKS BECAUSE LAST WEEK IN HANOVER, ONTARIO THE LOCAL VACCINE HUB THERE, OR HOCKEY HUB, IF YOU WILL, INOCULATED 3500 PEOPLE IN ONE DAY, SETTING A RECORD NOT ONLY PROVINCE-WIDE BUT COUNTRY-WIDE FOR MOST VACCINES DELIVERED IN A SINGLE DAY.

Steve says OKAY, THIS IS ALL GOOD NEWS. WE GET THAT. THIS IS ALL GOOD NEWS AND WE CERTAINLY ARE BROADENING OUR IMAGINATIONS IN TERMS OF WHERE VACCINES COULD BE ADMINISTERED. IT'S OBVIOUSLY NOT JUST YOUR FAMILY PRACTITIONER'S OFFICE ANYMORE, BUT SHEILA, I GUESS LET ME GET YOU ON THIS, DO YOU THINK THAT IN ORDER TO GET... WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT... PEOPLE PARTICIPATING IN THE ECONOMY GOING BACK TO WORK AND SO ON MORE FELICITOUSLY, SHOULD PEOPLE BE ABLE TO GET THEIR SHOTS AT WORK?

The caption changes to "Sheila Block, @SheilaBlockTO."

Sheila says I THINK WHAT DANIEL RAISED IS SOMETHING ESSENTIAL, WHICH IS THAT THIS RESPONSE HAS TO BE LED BY PUBLIC HEALTH, AND SO WE NEED PUBLIC HEALTH DETERMINING WHO SHOULD GET VACCINATED IN WHAT ORDER, AND PART OF THIS IS THAT WE STILL HAVE SUPPLY ISSUES, AND IF IN FACT... IF IN FACT THE CHAMBER AND OTHERS ARE WILLING TO BE LED BY PUBLIC HEALTH, I ABSOLUTELY THINK THAT WORKPLACES AND OTHER PLACES THAT REALLY MAKE THIS VACCINE ACCESSIBLE AND ARE REALLY IMPORTANT STEPS TO TAKE, BUT AGAIN, WE DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO RELY ON, YOU KNOW, THE GOODWILL OF INDIVIDUAL EMPLOYERS, BECAUSE THERE MIGHT... WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT EVERYBODY WHO IS AT THAT KIND OF RISK GETS ACCESS, AND I REALLY THINK WHAT WE'VE SEEN IS MULTIPLE APPROACHES ARE REALLY IMPORTANT.

Steve says OKAY, BUT LET'S, MARCY, COME FULL CIRCLE HERE, WHICH IS WE STARTED OUR CONVERSATION ABOUT THAT PEARSON AIRPORT CORRIDOR, THAT ZONE, AND IF WE HAVE TENS UPON TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE COMING IN AND OUT OF THERE EVERY SINGLE DAY AND MANY OF THEM ARE FROM RACIALIZED COMMUNITIES, WHICH WE KNOW, ARE FACING A DISPROPORTIONATELY NEGATIVE INFLUENCE AS IT RELATES TO COVID-19, SHOULD THEY BE ABLE WHEN THEY GO TO WORK, GO TO THE AIRPORT, GO TO THE BUSINESSES AROUND THAT AIRPORT, SHOULD THEY BE ABLE TO GET A SHOT THERE?

Marcy says WELL, I AGREE THAT PUBLIC HEALTH HAS BEEN RELENTLESS ABOUT KEEPING PEOPLE SAFE AND THEIR APPROACH IS REALLY ABOUT THE MOST VULNERABLE. AND REALLY THE ISSUE IS... AGAIN, I GO BACK TO THOSE MAPS THAT WE ALWAYS SEE OF WHERE THE HOT SPOTS ARE, AND THEY ARE THE PLACE OF RESIDENCE. THEY ARE WHERE PEOPLE LIVE, THAT THESE RECORDINGS ARE BEING MADE AS TO WHERE THE HOT SPOTS ARE. BUT WHEN YOU COMBINE THAT WITH THE CONCENTRATION OF WORKERS, ESSENTIAL WORKERS AND WHERE THEY ARE, THAT'S THE MISSING PIECE OF INFORMATION, ESSENTIALLY. AND SO THE TORONTO REGION BOARD OF TRADE BROUGHT TOGETHER, YOU KNOW, OVER 20 LARGE EMPLOYERS IN THAT DISTRICT THAT YOU ARE... THAT YOU SHOWED UP AT THE TOP OF THE MAP, AND THAT PEARSON EMPLOYMENT AREA, AND YOU KNOW, MANY OF THESE EMPLOYERS HAVE BEEN ON THE FOREFRONT OF IMPLEMENTING MITIGATIONS THAT ACTUALLY WORK TO KEEP THEMSELVES SAFE, THEIR EMPLOYEES SAFE, THEIR WORKPLACES SAFE. IT IS THE NATURE OF THE WORK THAT IS BEING DONE IN THESE PLACES THAT REALLY MAKES THE TRANSMISSION RATE MUCH HIGHER AND A RISK TO BE MUCH HIGHER. AND CERTAINLY MANY OF THE EMPLOYERS AROUND THE TABLE THAT WE'VE PUT TOGETHER, INCLUDING CANADA POST, HAVE BEEN OPEN TO HAVE DISCUSSIONS WITH GOVERNMENT TO BE PART OF THE VACCINATION STRATEGY.

Steve says LET ME FOLLOW UP WITH DANIEL ON THAT. WHAT IS THE CHAMBER DOING TO FACILITATE SOME KIND OF RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOUR BUSINESSES, GOVERNMENTS, PUBLIC HEALTH, SUPPLY AND GETTING NEEDLES INTO EMPLOYEES' ARMS IN THEIR WORKPLACES?

Daniel says IT'S A GOOD QUESTION, STEVE, AND LOOK, WE'VE HAD A NUMBER OF MEMBERS WHO HAVE PUT UP THEIR HANDS AND SAID WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT, YOU KNOW, WE'VE GOT CLINICS ON SITE. WE'VE GOT MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS THAT CAN HELP WITH THE VACCINATION OF OUR EMPLOYEES AND THEIR FAMILIES AND THE LOCAL COMMUNITY. HOWEVER, RIGHT NOW WE ARE TAKING PUBLIC HEALTH LEAD IN TERMS OF WHAT THE NEEDS ARE WITHIN EACH 34 OF THE LOCAL JURISDICTIONS IN WHICH THEY OPERATE. AND WHAT WE'VE SEEN, STEVE, IS THAT EACH PUBLIC HEALTH UNIT IS NOT CREATED EQUALLY. THERE ARE DIFFERENT NEEDS IN EACH REGION. SOME OF THOSE NEEDS ARE FACILITY NEEDS. THAT'S THE HOCKEY HUB EXAMPLE. SOME OF THOSE NEEDS ARE PEOPLE NEEDS. FOR INSTANCE, WE HEARD IN THE SOUTHWESTERN PUBLIC HEALTH UNIT THAT THERE WAS, YOU KNOW, FOR EVERY ONE CLINICIAN THAT PUTS A NEEDLE IN AN ARM, THERE'S 10 TO 11 SUPPORT STAFF NEEDED, YOU KNOW, GREETERS, FILLING OUT THE FORMS, GUIDING PEOPLE THROUGH. AND SO A LOCAL EMPLOYER THERE, MAGNA, ROLLED UP THEIR SLEEVES, NOT TO GET THE JAB THEMSELVES, BUT INSTEAD TO VOLUNTEER THEIR PEOPLE TO HELP WITH THE LOCAL VACCINATION EFFORT, AND SO WHAT WE'VE BEEN TRYING TO DO HERE IS UNDERSTANDING THAT RIGHT NOW SUPPLY IS LAGGING AND DISTRIBUTION IS NOT GOING AS QUICKLY AS WE WOULD LIKE, IS TO SEE IN WHAT AREAS CAN WE BE HELPFUL WHEN THERE IS ACTUALLY SHORTCOMINGS IN ROLLING THAT OUT, WHETHER THAT BE RESOURCES, WHETHER THAT BE PROCESS DESIGN ENGINEERS, WHETHER THAT BE COMMUNICATIONS EXPERTS TO HELP WITH PUBLIC AWARENESS AND ADDRESSING VACCINE LITERACY AND HESITANCY. THESE ARE ALL INDIVIDUAL NEEDS THAT LOCAL PUBLIC HEALTH UNITS HAVE ADDRESSED, AND JUST CONCRETELY ONE LAST THING HERE, STEVE, IS WE'VE PUT TOGETHER A PORTAL OF VOLUNTEER RESOURCES FROM THESE 250 MEMBERS, AND WE'VE DIVIDED THOSE RESOURCES UP INTO THOSE LOCAL PUBLIC HEALTH UNITS. WE'RE IN THE PROCESS OF GOING TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM RIGHT NOW TO SEE HOW WE CAN BE HELPFUL.

Steve says ALL RIGHT, THE ONE EXPRESSION THAT I HEARD THE THREE OF YOU USE IS "WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT," AND THE TIME CLEARLY ISN'T RIGHT, I GUESS RIGHT NOW, BECAUSE WE'RE ALL UNDER LOCKDOWN, UNDER A STATE OF EMERGENCY. HOWEVER, UNTIL THE TIME BECOMES RIGHT, WE NEED TO HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT SICK DAYS BECAUSE THAT'S PRESUMABLY ONE OF THE THINGS THAT'S GOING TO PREVENT THE OUTBREAK FROM GETTING WORSE, WHICH LEADS TO THE APRIL 7TH NEWS CONFERENCE THAT DOUG FORD HAD A WEEK OR SO AGO. LET'S HAVE A CLIP OF THAT. SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "April 7, 2021."
In the clip, Premier Doug Ford gives an official statement.

He says MY MESSAGE TO THE OPPOSITION AND EVERYONE ELSE, BECAUSE THERE'S A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT ARE PLAYING POLITICS RIGHT NOW, AND IT'S TOTALLY IRRESPONSIBLE, THEY ARE DOING A DISSERVICE TO THE PEOPLE THAT THEY ARE TELLING THIS TO. THERE'S PAID SICK LEAVE FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. FOLKS, BECAUSE OF ALL THE PREMIERS AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, WE NEGOTIATED A 1.1 BILLION Dollars OF SICK PAY. THERE'S STILL 750 MILLION Dollars AVAILABLE. AND TO GET PAID SICK DAYS, GO ON-LINE TO WWW.CANADA.CA/COVID19.

The clip ends.

Steve says PREMIER FORD FROM A WEEK AGO. SHEILA, TO YOU FIRST. LET'S REALLY GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS SICK DAY ISSUE, IF WE CAN. WE KNOW THAT THE OPPOSITION FOR MONTHS AT QUEEN'S PARK HAVE BEEN SAYING WE NEED PAID SICK DAYS IN THE PROVINCE TO ENSURE THAT PEOPLE DON'T HAVE TO GO TO WORK SICK BECAUSE THEY ARE AFRAID TO STAY HOME BECAUSE IF THEY STAY HOME THEY WON'T GET PAID. THEY ARE IN A PRECARIOUS ECONOMIC SITUATION AND, THEREFORE, WE NEED TO PAY THEM TO STAY HOME DURING THIS PANDEMIC. YOU JUST HEARD PREMIER FORD SAY WE DON'T NEED TO DO THAT. THERE'S ALREADY A FEDERAL PROGRAM IN PLACE FILLED WITH 750 MILLION Dollars IN PLACE. WHO'S RIGHT HERE?

The caption changes to "Paid leave?"

Sheila says I THINK THAT WE JUST HAVE TO CLEARLY SAY THAT THE PREMIER IS WRONG HERE. THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THAT PROGRAM AND PAID SICK LEAVE. TO APPLY FOR THE CSRB, IT TAKES SEVEN STEPS BETWEEN APPLYING FOR IT AND GETTING IT. IF YOU HAVE PAID SICK LEAVE, THERE'S ONE STEP. YOU CALL IN SICK AND YOUR PAYCHEQUE DOESN'T CHANGE. AND I THINK IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO REINFORCE HERE THAT THIS IS A WORKFORCE THAT IS LOW-WAGE AND CANNOT AFFORD EITHER THE UNCERTAINTY, WHICH IS... WHICH ACCOMPANIES THAT FEDERAL BENEFIT IN TERMS OF YOU'RE NOT SURE WHETHER YOU'LL GET IT OR NOT, AND ALSO CAN'T AFFORD THE WAIT TIMES. SO THOSE ARE TWO CRUCIAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE FEDERAL BENEFIT AND PAID SICK LEAVE THAT MAKE IT LESS LIKELY THAT PEOPLE ARE GOING TO ACCESS IT. AND WE HAVE VERY GOOD PROOF OF HOW THAT'S NOT HAPPENING. THE PREMIER HIMSELF STATED THAT THERE IS STILL 700 MILLION Dollars LEFT THERE, AND WE ARE STILL SEEING HUGE AMOUNTS OF TRANSMISSION OF THE VIRUS IN WORKPLACES. SO I REALLY THINK WE NEED TO TAKE A DIFFERENT APPROACH, AND WE REALLY NEED PUBLIC POLICY TO PUT NO BARRIERS IN-BETWEEN PEOPLE'S ABILITY TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR HEALTH, TO TAKE CARE OF THE HEALTH OF THEIR CO-WORKERS AND THE PUBLIC AT LARGE.

Steve says LET ME JUST CLARIFY A COUPLE OF THINGS. ONE OF THE ALLEGATIONS THAT HAS BEEN MADE IS THAT THERE'S STILL 750 MILLION Dollars IN THIS FEDERAL SICK LEAVE FUND BECAUSE IT'S UNDER-SUBSCRIBED. PEOPLE THINK IT'S TOO DIFFICULT TO GET SO THEY DON'T APPLY FOR IT. TRUE OR FALSE?

Sheila says YES, THAT IS TRUE IN TERMS OF THE ESTIMATE OF THE AMOUNT OF TAKE-UP IS THE ESTIMATED... THE TAKE-UP RATE... MY APOLOGIES. THE TAKE-UP RATE IS MUCH SLOWER THAN HAD BEEN EXPECTED, AND WHAT WE ASSUME IS THAT THE DIFFICULTIES IN ACCESSING IT AND THE UNCERTAINTIES ASSOCIATED WITH IT ARE THE REASON FOR THAT.

Steve says NOW, MARCY, ONE OF THE REASONS THAT PREMIER FORD HAS BEEN RELUCTANT TO BRING IN THE KIND OF SICK DAYS POLICY THAT SHEILA JUST ENUNCIATED IS THAT HE THINKS BUSINESS ARE ALREADY SUFFERING ENOUGH AND THAT THEY CANNOT BE EXPECTED TO TAKE ON THE FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF YET ANOTHER PROGRAM WHEN THEY ARE ALREADY ON THE EDGE OF A CLIFF. WHAT'S YOUR VIEW ON THAT?

Marcy says WELL, CERTAINLY I MEAN WE'RE IN A NEW TERRAIN HERE, STEVE, RIGHT? LIKE COVID, THE REALITIES THAT COVID HAS LAID ON GOVERNMENT, THEY HAVE TO BALANCE THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN LIFE AS WELL AS FAIRLY SUPPORT BUSINESSES WHO, AGAIN, HAVE BEEN MAKING INCREDIBLE SACRIFICES THROUGHOUT THIS PANDEMIC AND HAVE BEEN HIT, YOU KNOW, SOME OF THE HARDEST AFTER, YOU KNOW, THOSE WHO LOST THEIR LIVES. AND I THINK THAT WHAT EVERYBODY WANTS IS CONSISTENCY, AND IT'S REALLY SIMPLY TO KNOW WHAT SUPPORTS THEY HAVE, YOU KNOW, WHAT PARAMETERS BUSINESSES CAN WORK WITHIN. WHAT'S ON THE HORIZON IF GOVERNMENT CHOOSES TO SUPPORT PAID SICK LEAVE THEN, YOU KNOW, BUSINESSES CAN FACTOR THAT INTO THEIR PLANS, BUT REALLY IT'S ALL ABOUT CONSISTENCY AND CONSISTENCY IN OUR APPROACH TO KEEP PEOPLE SAFE AND WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT TO REALLY REOPEN THE ECONOMY.

Steve says DANIEL, I PRESUME BEFORE THE PANDEMIC HIT IF YOU WERE SICK, YOU KNOW, YOU CALLED INTO YOUR EMPLOYER AND YOU SAID I CAN'T COME IN TODAY AND YOU WOULD STILL GET YOUR SALARY, AND THE BUSINESS IN QUESTION WOULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYING THAT SALARY. WE'RE POST-PANDEMIC NOW, OR INTO THE PANDEMIC NOW. IS IT YOUR VIEW THAT THE EXPENSE OF PAYING FOR SICK DAYS FOR EMPLOYEES WHO CAN'T COME IN BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT TO INFECT THEIR COLLEAGUES AT THE WORKPLACE, IN YOUR VIEW, WHO SHOULD PAY FOR THAT NOW?

Daniel says LOOK, ENSURING PEOPLE DURING A PANDEMIC CAN AFFORD TO STAY HOME IS BOTH... IT'S A REALLY IMPORTANT POINT. IT'S BOTH MORALLY THE RIGHT THING TO DO AND IT'S ECONOMICALLY SOUND AS WELL, AND WHEN A WORKER PROTECTS THEMSELVES THEY ARE PROTECTING THEIR COLLEAGUES, THEY'RE PROTECTING THEIR EMPLOYER AND THE BUSINESS AND THE COMMUNITY BY EXTENSION. SO OUR POSITION ON THIS IS THAT BUSINESSES, PARTICULARLY SMALL BUSINESSES, SIMPLY CANNOT AFFORD THE ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY TO FUND SICK LEAVE AT THIS TIME, WHICH IS WHY WE SUPPORT THE NOTION OF TEMPORARY PAID SICK PROGRAM THAT IS PAID FOR BY GOVERNMENT, AND SHEILA JUST NOW DID A GREAT JOB OF EXPLAINING WHAT SOME OF THE SHORTCOMINGS ARE OF THE FEDERAL BENEFIT PROGRAM, BUT JUST AS OTHER PROGRAMS AND BENEFITS THAT HAVE BEEN ROLLED OUT OVER THE LAST YEAR HAVE BEEN TWEAKED AND PROVED OR AMENDED TO FILL IN THE GAPS, WE DON'T SEE ANY REASON WHY THE VERY SAME CAN'T BE APPLIED IN THIS INSTANCE AS WELL. WE HOPE TO SEE BOTH THE PROVINCE AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WORK TOGETHER TO EXPLORE, YOU KNOW, EITHER A REFORM OF THE CURRENT BENEFIT OR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ADDITIONAL SUPPORT SO THAT WHEN PEOPLE CAN STAY HOME... RATHER WHEN PEOPLE NEED TO STAY HOME THEY ARE ABLE TO DO SO SAFELY AND THEY DON'T NEED TO CHOOSE BETWEEN, YOU KNOW, FOLLOWING PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS AND BEING ABLE TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE.

Steve says RIGHT, NOW DANIEL, FOLLOW-UP, HAVE YOU SUGGESTED... I PRESUME IN YOUR CONVERSATIONS WITH CABINET MEMBERS, THE PREMIER OF ONTARIO, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, WHOEVER, I PRESUME YOU HAVE PITCHED THIS IDEA OF A TEMPORARY SICK DAY PROGRAM IN WHICH GOVERNMENTS ASSIST BUSINESSES IN PAYING FOR SICK DAYS. WHAT'S THE RESPONSE BEEN?

Daniel says WELL, THE RESPONSE HAS BEEN, YOU KNOW, THERE HASN'T BEEN A LOT OF CLARITY, AND THIS GOES TO... THIS GOES TO THE POINT THAT WAS JUST MADE ABOUT THE PREDICTABILITY OF WHAT'S COMING DOWN THE LINE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES. YOU KNOW, WHAT WE'VE HEARD TO DATE IS, YOU KNOW, VERY SIMILAR TO WHAT THE PREMIER JUST SAID IN THAT CLIP IN THE PRESS CONFERENCE, WHICH IS, YOU KNOW, THERE'S A FEDERAL BENEFIT. THERE'S 750 MILLION DOLLARS ON THE TABLE AND THAT THAT'S SUFFICIENT. BUT WHAT WE'RE ASKING FOR IS, YOU KNOW, TO FILL IN THE GAPS AND SO WE CAN ACTUALLY WALK THE WALK WHEN WE SAY PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY ARE PRIORITIES FOR US ALL. STEVE, JUST TO BRING THIS BACK TO THE SEGMENT AT THE TOP, IN PEEL WE HAVE DATA THAT SHOWS ONE IN FOUR PEOPLE WHO ARE SYMPTOMATIC WENT TO WORK AND IN SOME CASES CONTINUED GOING TO WORK AFTER THEY TESTED POSITIVE SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY COULDN'T AFFORD TO LOSE THEIR PAYCHEQUE OR THEIR JOB, AND SO THAT PRETTY CLEARLY TELLS US THAT THERE'S A GAP IN THE CURRENT FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BENEFIT THAT NEEDS TO BE BOLSTERED.

Steve says IN WHICH CASE, SHEILA BLOCK, IN YOUR VIEW, WHO OUGHT TO PAY TO MAKE SURE THAT THE ONE IN FOUR WORKERS JUST REFERENCED BY DANIEL DON'T GO TO WORK AND INFECT ALL THEIR COLLEAGUES?

Sheila says I THINK THERE'S A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS HERE. THE FIRST OF THESE IS THAT IT IS ONLY THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT THAT HAS THE JURISDICTION TO MAKE SURE THAT THOSE EMPLOYERS KEEP PAYCHEQUES WHOLE FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE ILL. SO THAT'S A KIND OF FUNDAMENTAL WEAKNESS IN TRYING TO STRENGTHEN THE APPROACH THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PROGRAM. AND I THINK THE OTHER QUESTION IS IT DEPENDS. I THINK... I THINK JEFF BEZOS ABSOLUTELY CAN PAY FOR SICK PAY FOR THOSE WORKERS AT THE AMAZON WAREHOUSE AND OTHER BIG EMPLOYERS, INCLUDING, YOU KNOW, WAREHOUSES FOR THE WESTONS AND WAREHOUSES FOR WALMART. ABSOLUTELY THEY CAN AFFORD TO DO IT. WHAT WE REALLY NEED IS WE NEED LEGISLATION FOR THOSE PAID SICK DAYS, AND THEN A PROGRAM LIKE THE WAGE SUBSIDY PROGRAM WHERE EMPLOYERS WHO CANNOT AFFORD TO DO IT BECAUSE OF THIS EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES WE'RE IN... WE ARE IN, WILL BE PROVIDED WITH THAT SUPPORT.

Steve says OKAY, BUT WHAT YOU'VE DONE THERE, SHEILA, IF I MAY, YOU... YOU KNOW, YOU PUT A BIG TARGET ON THE BOOGEYMAN THERE, WHICH IS TO SAY LET'S MENTION AMAZON AND LET'S MENTION... YOU'VE LINED UP ALL THE TYPICAL SUSPECTS HERE. I THINK DANIEL IS MORE WORRIED ABOUT THE LITTLE MOM-AND-POP OPERATION THAT IS BARELY GETTING BY BY THE SKIN OF THEIR TEETH. DO YOU WANT TO SADDLE THEM WITH THE OBLIGATION TO FINANCE SICK DAYS EVEN THOUGH IN TERMS OF PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY THAT MAY BE A VERY WORTHWHILE THING TO DO, BUT AGAIN, THEY ARE BARELY HANGING ON RIGHT NOW.

Sheila says SO ABSOLUTELY DURING A PANDEMIC WE ABSOLUTELY WANT TO PROVIDE THAT SUPPORT FOR SMALL BUSINESSES, AND I HAVE TO TELL YOU OVER THE LAST YEAR MY EMPATHY AND CONCERN ABOUT SMALL BUSINESSES HAS GROWN TO A STATE THAT I COULD NOT HAVE PREDICTED. SO ABSOLUTELY THEY NEED SUPPORT, JUST LIKE THEY WERE PROVIDED SUPPORT WITH THE WAGE SUBSIDY, THE FEDERAL WAGE SUBSIDY, OR THAT THEY'VE BEEN PROVIDED SUPPORT THROUGH THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT SMALL BUSINESS PROGRAM. DURING THIS PANDEMIC, ABSOLUTELY ALL THESE BUSINESSES THAT ARE HANGING ON BY THEIR FINGERNAILS NEED SUPPORT, BUT WE HAVE TO BE REALLY CLEAR THAT ALL BUSINESSES ARE NOT IN THE SAME SITUATION. SOME ARE ACTUALLY, THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN, HAVE SEEN THEIR MARKETS INCREASE AND BENEFITING FROM IT. SO WE NEED THOSE SUPPORTS FOR THOSE WHO NEED IT, BUT WE ALSO NEED TO SAY, WHEN THIS PANDEMIC IS OVER, THAT THE PRICE OF ENTRY INTO THIS ECONOMY IS PROVIDING PAID SICK DAYS, AND WE'VE DONE THIS KIND OF THING BEFORE. WE DID IT WHEN WE SAID, YOU KNOW, IF YOU CAN'T MAKE A GO OF THIS WITHOUT CHILD LABOUR, YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GO OUT OF BUSINESS. WE'VE SAID IT BEFORE IN TERMS OF 40-HOUR WORKWEEK. SO THESE ARE THE KINDS OF CHANGES THAT WE NEED TO SEE, BUT ABSOLUTELY IN THE MOMENT WE NEED THOSE SUPPORTS.

Steve says AND ONE MORE, SHEILA. YOU POINTED OUT THIS IS AN AREA OF PROVINCIAL RESPONSIBILITY. AS YOU LOOK ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO TEN PROVINCES, IS THERE ANY PROVINCE IN CANADA RIGHT NOW THAT HAS THE KIND OF PAID SICK LEAVE PROGRAM, MAYBE COOPERATING BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS, THAT MEETS YOUR STANDARDS?

Sheila says WE ARE NOT SEEING IT CURRENTLY IN ANY GOVERNMENT ACROSS CANADA, AND IT REMAINS A MYSTERY TO ME... AND I HAVE TO SAY THAT THE LEVEL OF SUPPORT THAT MY... THAT I'M SEEING AT THIS TABLE FROM THE CHAMBER AND FROM THE TORONTO BOARD OF TRADE INDICATES THERE IS GENERAL WIDESPREAD SUPPORT FOR DOING WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO PUT PUBLIC HEALTH AT THE FOREFRONT IN ORDER TO FACILITATE THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY, AND SO IT TRULY REMAINS A MYSTERY TO ME WHY NO GOVERNMENT HAS STEPPED UP THE WAY IT NEEDS TO.

Steve says I'M GOING TO GIVE THE LAST WORD TO MARCY BURCHFIELD WHO IS GOING TO EXPLAIN THIS MYSTERY TO US. WHY IS IT, MARCY, WHEN THERE SEEMS TO BE GREAT CONSENSUS IN MANY CORNERS OF SOCIETY THAT THIS IS SOMETHING THAT OUGHT TO BE DONE THAT NOT A SINGLE PROVINCE HAS PUT AN APPROPRIATE, TO THE VIEWS OF SOME, PAID SICK DAY PROGRAM IN PLACE, NOT EVEN THE NDP GOVERNMENT OF BRITISH COLUMBIA?

Marcy says SO I AM NOT A GOVERNMENT DECISIONMAKER, BUT I WILL SAY THAT OUR RESEARCH HAS SHOWN, AND HAS OTHERS, THAT GOVERNMENTS HAVE BEEN INCREDIBLY NIMBLE. FROM THE MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENTS TO PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS TO FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS IN CREATING THESE SUPPORT PROGRAMS FOR BOTH BUSINESS AND WORKERS, ESSENTIALLY, TO KEEP PEOPLE SAFE AND TO KEEP BUSINESSES SUPPORTED, ESSENTIALLY. AND WE HAVE BEEN SEEING EVIDENCE THAT THEIR SUPPORTS ARE WORKING. YOU KNOW, THE PERSONAL AND BUSINESS INSOLVENCY RATE, BANKRUPTCY RATE IS THE LOWEST THAT IT'S BEEN SINCE THE 1980S, AND SO THESE GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS ARE WORKING. YOU KNOW, THERE JUST NEEDS TO BE SOME CLARITY AND CONSISTENCY IN THE APPROACH TO THESE PROGRAMS.

The caption changes to "Produced by: Meredith Martin, @meredithmartin."

Steve says WE'RE ALL FOR CLARITY AND CONSISTENCY, AND WE'LL SEE IF WE GET SOME IN THE DAYS AHEAD. MARCY BURCHFIELD, DANIEL SAFAYENI AND SHEILA BLOCK, IT'S GOOD OF ALL THREE OF YOU TO JOIN US ON TVO TONIGHT. THANKS SO MUCH AND STAY SAFE OUT THERE, OKAY?

Sheila says THANK YOU.

Daniel says THANKS, STEVE.

Marcy says THANKS, STEVE.

Watch: Sick Days in Pandemic Hot Zones