Transcript: The Economics of Paid Sick Days | Apr 28, 2021

Steve sits in a room with white walls, a low slanted ceiling and several framed pictures on the walls including one of George Drew and one of Walter Kronkite. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a white shirt and a black tie.

A caption on screen reads "The economics of paid sick days."

Steve says CALLS FOR PAID SICK DAYS HAVE COME FROM ALL CORNERS FOR MONTHS NOW. FROM PUBLIC HEALTH, FROM THE SCIENCE TABLE, OPPOSITION PARTIES, SOCIAL MEDIA, LABOUR AND THE LIST GOES ON. WHAT IS SO TRICKY ABOUT THIS? WITH US NOW, ROSALIE WYONCH, HEALTH POLICY ECONOMIST AT THE C.D. HOWE INSTITUTE. AND SHE JOINS US NOW FROM WATERLOO, ONTARIO...

Rosalie is in her thirties, with long straight auburn hair. She's wearing glasses and a beige blazer.

Steve continues ROSALIE, IT'S GOOD TO HAVE YOU ON THE PROGRAM AGAIN. I THOUGHT WE WOULD JUST START BY GETTING A COMMENT ON THE RECORD HERE FROM THE MINISTER OF LABOUR WHOM WE INVITED TO JOIN US TONIGHT BUT APPARENTLY HIS SCHEDULE WOULDN'T PERMIT. HERE'S A STATEMENT FROM MONTE MCNAUGHTON'S OFFICE WHICH SAYS...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Statement from Minister McNaughton." The quote reads "I'm pleased that the federal government committed today to coming to the table to double the pay for Ontario workers to 1000 dollars a week. We look forward to partnering with them to fill this gap and continue improving their program to maximize support for Ontario workers and their families.
Our government will not burden businesses during this challenging time. We want to ensure businesses survive this pandemic and that workers have jobs to come back to. We are ready to work together on solutions that put the people of Ontario first."
Via email. April 27, 2021.

Steve says MINISTER OF LABOUR MONTE MCNAUGHTON ON THE RECORD WITH THAT. OKAY. LET'S DIVE INTO THIS, ROSALIE. DO YOU THINK THIS NEW INCREASE IN WHAT PEOPLE ARE ELIGIBLE FOR IS GOING TO FIX THE PROBLEM OF PEOPLE GOING TO WORK SICK OR, MORE ACCURATELY, MAKING SURE THEY DON'T GO TO WORK SICK?

The caption changes to "Rosalie Wyonch. C.D. Howe Institute."

Rosalie says WELL, I THINK THAT IT'S CERTAINLY A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. WHETHER OR NOT IT WILL BE SUFFICIENT TO ENSURE THAT ALL OF THOSE THAT MIGHT BE IN A CONFLICT OF INTEREST AT THE MOMENT BETWEEN STAYING HOME AND OBEYING PUBLIC HEALTH GUIDELINES AND PROTECTING THE REST OF THE POPULATION, AND THEN THEIR OWN LIVELIHOOD... ANYONE WHO IS CURRENTLY IN THAT SITUATION IS REALLY WHO THIS POLICY SHOULD BE TARGETING, AND SO DOUBLING THE BENEFIT CERTAINLY WILL HELP AS REALLY THE MAJORITY OF LOWER WAGE WORKERS ARE... DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO PAID SICK LEAVE AND THEY'RE ALSO MORE LIKELY TO NOT HAVE THE SAVINGS TO BE ABLE TO, YOU KNOW, SUSTAIN THE LOSS OF INCOME FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS.

Steve says NOW, IN ESSENCE, WHAT WE'RE ASKING IS WHETHER OR NOT IT MAKES ECONOMIC SENSE TO PAY PEOPLE NOT TO WORK IF THEY'RE SICK, AND THEREFORE NOT GO TO THEIR PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT, FACTORIES, FACILITIES, WHATEVER, AND GET EVERYBODY ELSE INFECTED. I MEAN, YOU'RE A HEALTH ECONOMIST. DOES THAT MAKE ECONOMIC SENSE TO YOU?

The caption changes to "Rosalie Wyonch, @RosalieWyonch."

Rosalie says IT CERTAINLY DOES. YOU KNOW, FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF WORKERS AND INDIVIDUALS AND FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF BUSINESSES AND SORT OF THE GOVERNMENT AND SOCIETY WRIT LARGE. THE POTENTIAL RISK OF SOMEONE GOING TO A WORKPLACE AND POTENTIALLY INFECTING THEIR COLLEAGUES AND CAUSING AN OUTBREAK COULD HAVE QUITE HIGH COSTS. I MEAN, I'M A HEALTH ECONOMIST, AND YOU DON'T REALLY WANT TO THINK ABOUT HUMAN LIFE IN TERMS OF DOLLARS, BUT IF WE DO THAT, THEN WHEN WE'RE PREVENTING DEATH, PAYING FOR A FEW ADDITIONAL HOURS WITHOUT OUTPUT DOES GENERALLY MAKE ECONOMIC SENSE. AND I WOULD ADD, PARTICULARLY IN THE CURRENT SITUATION THAT WE FIND OURSELVES IN IN ONTARIO WHERE ICUs ARE REACHING FULL CAPACITY AND THERE IS REAL RISK THAT WE WILL ACTUALLY HAVE TO BE MAKING CHOICES ABOUT WHO RECEIVES LIFE SUPPORT AND WHO DOESN'T. IT REALLY IS BECOMING A DIRECT RELATION TO, IF WE DON'T CONTROL CoVID, THEN WE WILL HAVE TO MAKE LIFE-AND-DEATH CHOICES. AND SO PARTICULARLY IN THE DIRE SITUATION WE'RE IN NOW, IT CERTAINLY MAKES ECONOMIC SENSE TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO STAY HOME IF THEY MIGHT BE A RISK, AND BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. AND IF WE CAN DO THAT FOR ROUGHLY THE SAME AS THEY WOULD BE MAKING IF THEY HAD GONE TO WORK BUT REMOVE THE RISK, THEN I SEE THAT AS HARM REDUCTION AND IT MAKES GOOD ECONOMIC SENSE.

Steve says WELL, HERE'S ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND. THERE ARE VERY FEW ISSUES IN OUR SOCIETY WHERE YOU BASICALLY HAVE 80 percent OF THE PEOPLE SAYING, "THIS IS WHAT WE SHOULD DO." AND I GUESS IT IS EITHER A VERY BRAVE OR A VERY FOOLHARDY GOVERNMENT THAT DOES NOT IMPLEMENT POLICY WHERE 80 percent OF THE PEOPLE ARE ONSIDE WITH AN IDEA. AND YET THIS PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT HAS IN ITS WISDOM... WHAT'S THE EXPRESSION?... I MEAN THEY'VE REALLY DRAGGED THE PUCK ON THIS THING. IT'S PRETTY OBVIOUS THEY DO NOT WANT TO BRING IN THEIR OWN PROVINCE-WIDE, PROVINCIALLY-RUN, PAID SICK DAYS PLAN. DO YOU KNOW WHY?

Rosalie says I WOULD SAY THAT THERE'S... I DON'T KNOW WHY, FIRST OFF, BECAUSE IT REALLY... GIVEN THE SITUATION, IT WOULD MAKE SENSE. HOWEVER, I THINK IF WE SORT OF DIVE INTO THE CONTEXT A LITTLE BIT, THEN MAYBE WE CAN SEE SOME OF THE REASONS OR, I GUESS, AT LEAST PROVIDE CONTEXT FOR THE DISCUSSION. AND BY THAT I MEAN, IF WE ACTUALLY LOOK AT WHAT PAID SICK LEAVE POLICY IS ACROSS THE COUNTRY, THERE WERE ONLY TWO PROVINCES THAT ACTUALLY HAD PAID SICK LEAVE PRIOR TO THE PANDEMIC, THAT WOULD BE QUEBEC AND P.E.I., AFTER FIVE YEARS OF EMPLOYMENT, YOU COULD GET ONE PAID DAY. AND SO REALLY WE WERE IN A SITUATION GOING INTO THIS PANDEMIC WHERE NOWHERE IN CANADA WERE THERE MANDATED PAID SICK LEAVE THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN SUFFICIENT TO COVER THE RECOMMENDED PERIOD OF ISOLATION.

Steve says NO, THAT'S TRUE, BUT WE DID HAVE PAID SICK DAYS... WE DID HAVE PAID SICK DAYS IN ONTARIO BEFORE DOUG FORD TOOK OVER. THE PREVIOUS LIBERAL GOVERNMENT DID BRING IN TOO. NOW, YOU'RE... TWO. YOU'RE QUITE RIGHT, THAT'S NOT ENOUGH FOR WHAT EPIDEMIOLOGISTS RECOMMEND FOR THIS CURRENT PANDEMIC, BUT IT WAS SOMETHING. THEY GOT RID OF THEM. THE FORD GOVERNMENT GOT RID OF THEM.

Rosalie says CERTAINLY. AND WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT IS, PRIOR TO THIS CRISIS, IT'S NOT THAT IT WASN'T... YOU KNOW, PAID SICK LEAVE WAS CERTAINLY A LABOUR POLICY THAT WAS BEING DEBATED MOVING FORWARD. BUT NOWHERE WAS THERE REALLY REALISTIC CALLS FOR TWO WEEKS OF PAID LEAVE IMMEDIATELY UPON EMPLOYMENT. AND SO WHAT I THINK MIGHT BE SOME OF THE ISSUE IN THE CURRENT SITUATION IS THAT WE'RE REALLY CONFUSING OR MERGING THE ISSUES BETWEEN WHAT WOULD BE AN EMERGENCY SICK LEAVE POLICY AND WHAT WOULD BE SORT OF A PERMANENT MORE LONG-TERM NON-CRISIS SITUATION SICK LEAVE LABOUR POLICY. AND I THINK THAT THE DEBATE BETWEEN THOSE TWO THINGS IS REALLY CONTRIBUTING TO A LACK OF PROGRESS WHEN WE MOST NEED IT.

Steve says NO, I TAKE YOUR POINT ON THAT. BUT I HEAR TWO CONFLICTING THINGS. ON THE ONE HAND, I SEE THE LABOUR MINISTER'S STATEMENT EARLIER WHICH SAYS WE'RE NOT GOING TO SADDLE BUSINESSES WITH ADDED EXPENDITURES IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC AS THEY'RE TRYING TO MAKE AN ECONOMIC COMEBACK. I THINK EVERYBODY GETS THAT. THERE ARE BUSINESSES OUT THERE THAT ARE SUFFERING BADLY, AND WE DON'T WANT TO BURDEN THEM WITH ADDITIONAL OBLIGATIONS. ON THE OTHER HAND, I ALSO HEAR THE PREMIER AND THE MINISTER OF FINANCE FROM TIME TO TIME SAYING, WE WILL SPARE NO EXPENSE TO PROTECT PEOPLE FROM THE RAVAGES OF THIS PANDEMIC. YOU KNOW, WHY NOT BRING IN A SICK DAY PROGRAM TEMPORARILY, AS YOU'VE JUST SUGGESTED, THAT WOULD HAVE THE GOVERNMENT BACKSTOP OR MAYBE TAKE OVER THAT OBLIGATION FROM BUSINESSES ALTOGETHER DURING THE COURSE OF THIS PANDEMIC? THEN BOTH OF THOSE STATEMENTS COULD BE TRUE. BUT THEY DON'T SEEM TO WANT TO DO THAT EITHER.

Rosalie says WELL, I THINK THAT'S INTERESTING BECAUSE REALLY IT DOES... I THINK THAT THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT, BY ATTEMPTING TO BUILD ON THE FEDERAL POLICY, IS TRYING TO COME UP WITH A COMPROMISE WHERE THEY'RE INCREASING THE BENEFIT WHILE NOT, YOU KNOW, PUTTING THAT ONUS ON BUSINESS, BE IT ADMINISTRATIVE OR FINANCIAL, AND THAT THERE WAS, I SUPPOSE, A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF UNCERTAINTY UP UNTIL A WEEK AGO, WHAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MIGHT DO ON ITS OWN IN TERMS OF SUPPORTING CANADIANS ACROSS THE COUNTRY WITH PAID LEAVE. AND REALLY I THINK FOLLOWING THE FEDERAL BUDGET IS WHERE THESE CONVERSATIONS REALLY PICKED UP. THEY'VE BEEN HAPPENING REALLY FOR OVER A YEAR NOW, BUT I THINK IT REALLY SORT OF BECAME THE HOT BUTTON ISSUE IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS. AND PART OF IT IS THAT IT'S ONE OF THE FEW THINGS THAT WE TALKED ABOUT A FULL YEAR AGO THAT WOULD BE HELPFUL FOR CONTROLLING COMMUNITY SPREAD THAT WE STILL HAVEN'T REALLY IMPLEMENTED. MANY OF THE OTHER POLICIES WE HAVE IMPLEMENTED. AND SO I THINK THIS IS JUST A SIGN OF WHERE WE ARE IN TERMS OF PROGRESS. BUT I THINK THAT ANY SORT OF POLITICAL DEBATE BETWEEN LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT IS NOT HELPFUL TO THE ACTUAL SITUATION. AND SO THE QUOTE THAT YOU READ FROM THE MINISTER ACTUALLY IS A LITTLE BIT COMFORTING TO ME. IT SHOWS THAT WE'RE NO LONGER SORT OF POINTING FINGERS AS IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS SAYING ONTARIO NEEDS ITS OWN POLICY. MEANWHILE, ONTARIO IS SAYING THAT THEY WANT TO ADD TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT POLICY. IF THERE IS ACTUALLY MOVEMENT AND THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT IS WORKING WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO EXPAND THAT BENEFIT, THEN THAT'S AT LEAST A POSITIVE SIGN IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

Steve says WELL, I HEAR YOU ON THAT. BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, LET ME GIVE YOU A FEW EXAMPLES... I NEED YOU TO EXPLAIN THIS TO ME. WHEN IT COMES TO FUNDING CHILD CARE, BASICALLY THE PROVINCES SAY: FEDS, GIVE US THE MONEY BUT DON'T TELL US WHAT TO DO. WHEN IT COMES TO FUNDING MEDICARE, FEDS, GIVE US THE MONEY BUT DON'T TELL US WHAT TO DO. WHEN IT COMES TO LONG-TERM CARE, GIVE US THE MONEY BUT DON'T TELL US WHAT TO DO. THIS IS A POLICY THAT IS EXCLUSIVELY IN PROVINCIAL JURISDICTION. PAID SICK DAYS FROM WORK. AND YET THE PROVINCE IS NOT ONLY NOT SETTING UP ITS OWN PLAN, IT'S NOT ONLY NOT ASKING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO HELP FUND ONTARIO'S PLAN, IT'S SAYING: YOU FEDS RUN THIS PLAN IN PROVINCIAL JURISDICTION AND WE'LL GIVE YOU MONEY TO HELP MAKE IT HAPPEN. I CAN'T EVER RECALL THAT HAPPENING BEFORE. I'M SURE IT HAS, BUT I DON'T RECALL IT. CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO ME HOW THIS MAKES SENSE?

Rosalie says THAT ONE'S A TOUGH ONE. THE ONLY THING THAT I MIGHT SAY IS SINCE THERE IS AN EXTANT POLICY, THAT THERE COULD BE SOME LOGIC IN EXPANDING ON THAT POLICY INSTEAD OF IMPLEMENTING ANOTHER ONE. HOWEVER, THERE ARE SOME FLAWS THAT THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT HAS ITSELF POINTED OUT ABOUT THE FEDERAL PROGRAM, PARTICULARLY THAT IT DOESN'T PROVIDE INCOME SUPPORT ACTUALLY AT THE SAME TIME THAT PEOPLE NEED TO TAKE TIME OFF WORK. AND SO I THINK THAT IT'S INTERESTING THAT THEY'RE BOTH OPEN ABOUT THE FLAWS FROM THE FEDERAL PROGRAM BUT ARE NOT TAKING ACTIONS TO IMPLEMENT THEIR OWN THAT WOULD BE DISTINCT FROM THAT. SO I GUESS IT'S HARD FOR ME TO NOT BEING A POLITICAL ANALYST TO REALLY GET INTO THE LOGIC OF WHY THAT MIGHT BE HAPPENING. BUT I DO, I GUESS, SORT OF THE TWO SIDES OF THE COIN WOULD BE, YOU DON'T WANT TO CREATE MORE COMPLEXITY IF IT'S NOT NEEDED, WHICH, SINCE THERE IS AN EXTANT PROGRAM, THERE IS SOME LOGIC TO BUILDING ON WHAT'S ALREADY THERE. HOWEVER, GIVEN THAT THERE ARE FLAWS WITH THAT PROGRAM AND THAT IT IS PROVINCIAL JURISDICTION, IT IS STILL A BIG QUESTION MARK.

Steve says I THINK YOUR ANSWER ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY AND ACCURATELY REFLECTS THE CONUNDRUM THAT I SUSPECT MANY PEOPLE ARE FEELING RIGHT NOW. SO LET'S... OKAY. FAIR ENOUGH. THERE IS THIS FEDERAL PROGRAM EVERYBODY ACKNOWLEDGES IT'S NOT PERFECT. MAYBE IT WILL BE A LITTLE BETTER IF THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO ADDS A HALF A BILLION DOLLARS TO IT OR WHAT ARE IT'S GOING TO END UP COSTING. BUT LET'S JUST GO BACK TO FIRST PRINCIPLES. IN AN IDEAL WORLD, YOU'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC. YOU WANT TO SET UP A PAID SICK DAYS PROGRAM. WHO IS THE BEST... WHICH IS THE BEST LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT TO ADMINISTER SUCH A PROGRAM?

Rosalie says WELL, I WOULD SAY I'M NOT... THAT REALLY DEPENDS ON A LOT OF CONTEXTS BUT, I MEAN, THAT'S ALWAYS THE ANSWER WITH POLICIES: IT DEPENDS. BUT I THINK REALLY GIVEN THE WAY THINGS ARE IN CANADA AND THE CONSTITUTIONAL ROLE OF PROVINCES IN THE AREA OF LABOUR POLICY AND HEALTH POLICY, IT WOULD MAKE SENSE THAT THESE PROGRAMS WOULD BE ADMINISTERED AT THE PROVINCIAL LEVEL. AND I THINK THAT THERE HAVE BEEN... OVER THE PAST YEAR THERE HAVE BEEN SOME STRANGE BLURRING OF THE LINES IN TERMS OF WHERE JURISDICTION ON SOME OF THESE ISSUES LIES, AND AS YOU MENTIONED, THERE HAVE BEEN... THE EXAMPLE OF THE PROVINCE OFFERING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MONEY TO ADMINISTER A LABOUR PROGRAM IS PRETTY UNIQUE. AND SO I THINK IT'S REALLY HARD TO SAY WHAT... WHAT THE SITUATION COULD IDEALLY BE. BUT IF IT WAS ME, I WOULD SAY THAT WE SHOULD GET EMPLOYERS INVOLVED BECAUSE ONE OF THE THINGS THAT RUNNING THROUGH PAYROLL CAN DO IS IT SUPPORTS PEOPLE WHEN THEY ACTUALLY WOULD RECEIVE THEIR REGULAR INCOME, AND SO WHERE THEY WON'T ACTUALLY... THEY'LL HAVE CONTINUITY AS WELL AS INCOME SUPPORT. HOWEVER, GIVEN THE SITUATION WITH BUSINESSES, THEN IT WOULD BE ON GOVERNMENT TO REALLY CONSIDER WHAT THE ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS AND THE FINANCIAL COSTS OF THAT ARE TO BUSINESSES, AND AT LEAST PARTIALLY COMPENSATE THEM FOR THE ADDITIONAL COSTS GIVEN THAT THEY'RE UNDER STRAIN AS WELL. AND REALLY ALL OF THE INCENTIVES ARE ALIGNED: BUSINESSES, INDIVIDUALS WANT PAID SICK LEAVE. IT'S A MASSIVE RISK FOR BUSINESSES AT THE MOMENT SINCE WE'RE IN AN INFECTIOUS DISEASE CRISIS. AND SO THERE REALLY IS BROAD SUPPORT. AND AS LONG AS BUSINESSES WON'T INCUR MASSIVE COSTS, I THINK THAT THEY WOULD BE HAPPY TO COME TO THE TABLE AND PLAY THEIR PART BECAUSE THEY HAVE A STAKE IN THIS AS WELL. SO I WOULD INVOLVE BUSINESSES, RUN IT THROUGH THE PROVINCE, AND REALLY FOCUS ON THE CONTINUITY AND MINIMIZING THE IMPACTS TO EITHER BUSINESSES OR INDIVIDUALS.

Steve says EXACTLY. AND WE HAD A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ONTARIO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ON THE PROGRAM A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO WHO BASICALLY JUST SAID THE SAME THING THAT YOU DID. HE'S IN FAVOUR OF THE IDEA, UNDERSTANDS THAT BUSINESSES DON'T WANT TO PAY THE WHOLE THING BUT IS PREPARED TO NEGOTIATE WITH THE PROVINCES TO FIGURE IT OUT. IT JUST RAISES THIS... I KEEP COMING BACK TO THIS QUESTION, WHICH IS WHY IS THIS SUCH A TOUGH NUT TO CRACK? THIS SEEMS LIKE A NO-BRAINER. IT SEEMS LIKE A SLAM DUNK. THERE ARE SO MANY ASPECTS OF SOCIETY THAT ARE GETTING BEHIND THIS IDEA, AND YET IT SEEMS A VERY DIFFICULT ONE FOR THE PROVINCE TO MOVE FORWARD ON. ANY THEORIES AS TO WHY?

Rosalie says I MEAN, I HAVE MY OWN PERSONAL IDEAS AS TO WHY, AND AS YOU MENTIONED BEFORE, THIS GOVERNMENT DID, WHEN IT CAME IN, PRIOR TO THE CRISIS, DID REVERSE LEGISLATION THAT WOULD HAVE IMPLEMENTED TWO PAID SICK DAYS. AND SO THERE'S A CERTAIN POLITICAL ASPECT TO THIS THAT I, AGAIN, DON'T NECESSARILY HAVE A GOOD READ ON. BUT TO ME, AS A CITIZEN AND AS AN ANALYST, I AM ALSO LEFT WONDERING WHY. AND WITH ALL OF THE SUPPORTS, I'M STILL LEFT WITH A QUESTION MARK, WHICH TO ME SUGGESTS THAT THERE'S SOMETHING THAT WE AREN'T SEEING FROM THE NUMBERS OR HEARING FROM THE EXPERTS THAT IS INFLUENCING THIS DECISION BECAUSE FROM THE NUMBERS, FROM WHAT I'M HEARING FROM PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS AND PARTICULARLY THE DIRE SITUATION IN ONTARIO ICUs, WE REALLY DO NEED TO DO EVERYTHING IN OUR POWER TO CONTROL THE SPREAD AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. WE REALLY ARE IN THAT EMERGENCY CRISIS SITUATION. AND SO I DON'T KNOW WHAT EXCUSES EITHER THE FEDERAL OR THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT COULD HAVE AT THIS POINT TO CONTINUE THIS AS A POLITICAL DISCUSSION. I THINK BOTH LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT NEED TO SORT OF GET RID OF THE POLITICS BECAUSE THIS IS AN EMERGENCY AND PARTICULARLY THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD STOP POINTING THE FINGER AT THE FEDS. AND IF THE TACTIC OF EXPANDING THE FEDERAL PROGRAM DOESN'T LOOK LIKE IT'S GOING TO BE WORKABLE, THEY NEED TO COME UP WITH AN ALTERNATIVE AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

Steve says OKAY. ROSALIE, LET'S FINISH UP ON THIS BECAUSE WHEN THE PANDEMIC STARTED YOU AND SOME OF YOUR COLLEAGUES GOT TOGETHER, YOU HAD A BIT OF A ROUNDTABLE, YOU CAME UP WITH SOME POLICY PRESCRIPTIONS THAT COULD HELP GUIDE THE PROVINCE THROUGH THIS STORM. DO YOU WANT TO LAY ONE OR TWO IDEAS ON US HERE IN OUR REMAINING MOMENTS?

Rosalie says CERTAINLY. AND I THINK THAT'S REALLY... SICK LEAVE WAS ONE OF THE THINGS WE DISCUSSED, PARTICULARLY FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS AND THOSE IN LONG-TERM CARE. YOU KNOW, WE'VE ALL HEARD ABOUT THE REALLY SAD SITUATION IN ONTARIO LONG-TERM CARE HOMES. BUT WHAT A LOT OF PEOPLE MIGHT NOT KNOW IS THAT 40 percent OF THE CASES IN LONG-TERM CARE HOMES WERE ACTUALLY STAFF AND THAT DEPENDENCE IN THAT INDUSTRY ON TEMPORARY OR PART-TIME WORK WAS, IN THE EARLY DAYS AT LEAST, LIKELY A BIG CONTRIBUTOR TO SPREAD ACROSS THOSE FACILITIES. AND SO WE WERE REALLY FOCUSED ON THE CORE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM AND DIFFERENT SECTORS AT THAT TIME. BUT EVEN THEN, THERE WAS DISCUSSIONS ABOUT PAID SICK LEAVE FOR ESSENTIAL WORKERS AND, YOU KNOW, LOOKING TO B.C. AND INCOME TOP-UPS THAT THEY DID IN THE EARLY DAYS. SO REALLY, THESE WERE RECOMMENDATIONS THAT WERE BEING MADE BY ECONOMISTS, POLICY WONKS, ACADEMICS, HEALTH EXPERTS AS MUCH AS A YEAR AGO, AND SO AT THIS POINT WHY IS THE BIGGEST QUESTION. BUT THAT'S NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE. THE IMPORTANT ISSUE IS THAT WE CONTAIN CoVID, PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH WORKERS AND THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM FROM BEING OVERWHELMED, AND PAID SICK LEAVE IS A PART OF THAT PUZZLE. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, IT WILL NOT ON ITS OWN BE ENOUGH TO CONTROL THE SITUATION THAT WE'RE IN, AND SO THE CURRENT FOCUS ON IT I THINK NEEDS TO MANAGE EXPECTATIONS. BUT WE'VE KNOWN FOR A LONG TIME, THIS IS A PIECE OF IT, AND IT'S STILL A MISSING PIECE OF THE PUZZLE. SO I URGE THE GOVERNMENT TO REALLY EITHER WORK WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OR LOOK AT THEIR OWN POLICY OPTIONS. BUT WE NEED TO FIND A WAY TO SUPPORT PEOPLE IN STAYING HOME WHEN THEY SHOULD AND FOLLOWING PUBLIC HEALTH GUIDELINES BECAUSE THAT IS STILL PRIORITY NUMBER 1.

The caption changes to "Producer: Meredith Martin, @MeredithMartin."

Steve says THAT'S ROSALIE WYONCH, HEALTH POLICY ECONOMIST FROM THE CD HOWE INSTITUTE. ROSALIE, IT'S GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. THANKS FOR COMING ONTO TVO TONIGHT.

Rosalie says THANKS VERY MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

Watch: The Economics of Paid Sick Days