Premier punts restriction decision back to Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health

Premier Doug Ford during a Sept. 24 media conference. YouTube

TORONTO — Not prepared to play the role of “bad guy” in this case, Premier Doug Ford today said it was up to Eastern Ontario’s medical officer of health to impose tweaked new restrictions on the region himself.

“Right now, there’s night and day comparison between Ottawa and Eastern Ontario regions,” Ford told the CBC’s Joanne Chianello during his daily media briefing today.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis has previously indicated his willingness to use his “section 22” authority to impose what the doctor has called “modified Stage 3” changes on his Eastern Ontario jurisdiction. But Roumeliotis yesterday explained his preference that the province do it, adding he believed he had a deal or understanding with the Ford cabinet on the matter. He expected the premier would be making the announcement as well, either today or tomorrow.

But if there was a deal, it’s off now. The premier observed that section 22 is available to each medical officer as they see fit, noting that London went ahead and tightened rules yesterday. “The proof is in the pudding,” the premier said, lauding that city’s approach.

“If the medical officer wants to put a section 22 in, we will respect that,” said Ford, who complained of buck-passing by some of Ontario’s medical officers of health.

“Some regions pass the buck and say, ‘No, no, you do it, I don’t want to be the bad guy,'” said Ford.

“The regions that want to hide around … why don’t you just come out and … issue that section 22 order?”

At issue is the provincially imposed rollback to harsher “modified Stage 2” restrictions in Ottawa — next door to Dr. Roumeliotis’s jurisdiction where numbers aren’t at the threshold to warrant similar action by Queen’s Park. Rather than impose a full-out ban on indoor dining — a key measure of modified Stage 2 in Ottawa, Toronto, Peel and York — the Eastern Ontario Medical Officer wants to add some additional new rules around maximum table size and other operational changes.

Ford observed that Eastern Ontario’s COVID-19 numbers are “drastically different” from those of Ottawa, which “was going over the cliff” while levels here “didn’t justify” modified Stage 2.

Below, Premier Ford addresses the local issue at his Oct. 22 media briefing.
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