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Federal government insists it is up to Ontario to charge businesses for sick leave | UKTN News

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Ottawa rejects Ontario’s offer to supplement the federal paid sick leave program to $ 1,000 per week for residents of the province instead of creating its own.

In an April 22 letter to Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland obtained by UKTN News, Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said the province was ready to immediately double Canada’s recovery sickness benefit for every resident of Ontario, instead of launching their own paid sick leave initiative or having companies offer paid sick days to employees.

“We believe this is the easiest and fastest way to increase participation in the program and make this program more effective for people who are ill, who do not have employer paid sick leave and who need this program most, ”Bethlenfalvy wrote.

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The federal government said its wage subsidy program was already in place to help employers pay workers on sick leave. And Canada’s Recovery Sickness Benefit is designed to support workers who do not have a regular employer, or as a stopgap until their province imposes paid sick leave, the spokesperson said. Freeland, Katherine Cuplinskas, in a statement to UKTN News.

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“When Ontario is ready to impose sick leave on provincially regulated businesses, as we have done for federally regulated businesses, we’ll be there to help you,” Cuplinskas said.

Federal Labor Minister Filomena Tassi said Power and politics host Vassy Kapelos Tuesday afternoon as Ottawa calls on Ontario to make permanent paid sick leave mandatory.

“We want to make sure that workers are protected across the country, and if they feel sick they don’t have to go to work,” Tassi said. “So in Ontario we want them to say, ‘OK, we’re going to put in protections for workers … that you can get sick leave.’ ”

Trudeau says Freeland is working with the province

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday that Freeland is working closely with the province to develop its own backers.

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“The provinces need to look at how to provide sick leave directly through employers, which the federal government cannot do,” he said.

WATCH | Trudeau responds to Ontario offer to double sick leave payments:

During Question Period at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, Ontario Labor Minister Monte McNaughton said the province is asking the federal government to double payments under its $ 500 sick leave program per week at $ 1000 per week, with Ontario paying the additional cost. Later, at a press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said provinces should consider granting sick leave to employers, which he says Ottawa cannot do. 1:35

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The federal government’s reaction to the province’s offer does not appear to have changed the mind of Ontario Labor Minister Monte McNaughton. He said on Power and politics that the best option was what the province had proposed earlier Tuesday.

“The administration is already in place. They just need to double it down,” McNaughton said.

He also rejected the idea of ​​legislating even a few paid sick days covered by employers.

“Small businesses are challenged enough,” said the minister. “We need them to have a fighting chance to thrive after COVID-19.”

In her letter to Freeland, Bethlenfalvy said the province had not seen strong participation in the federal paid sick leave program and felt a greater incentive was needed.

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“We were hoping that your recent budget would fix this problem, and even if it doesn’t, Ontario is ready to act now in partnership with your government,” he wrote.

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Ford ignored calls for paid sick leave

On the same day that Belthenfalvy wrote to Freeland, Premier Doug Ford held an emotional press conference and promised workers that his government would create a more robust paid sick leave program than that provided by the federal government, which is currently $ 450 per week (after tax). for up to four weeks.

“I assure you that I have not lost sight of the fact that, unlike many people, I am able to isolate myself and continue to work. For too many people right now, that’s not the case, ”said Ford from the yard of his late mother’s home in Etobicoke. where he was in isolation after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

But later that day, Ford released a statement saying his government “would not impose any additional burdens on Ontario businesses that have been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This announcement of provincial sick leave marked a reversal of the Ford government’s stance.

A man holds up a sign at a rally in support of provincially paid sick leave for workers outside Queen’s Park in Toronto in January. When Ford took office in 2018, one of his government’s first actions was to end the Liberals’ paid sick leave program. (Cole Burston / The Canadian Press)

Throughout most of the pandemic, the Premier has ignored repeated requests from Ontario’s own science advisory table, local public health units, mayors, health experts, labor groups and opposition parties for create a program that would make it easier for workers to stay home if they are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19.

Paid sick days are essential in controlling the spread of COVID-19, said professor Nita Chhinzer of human resources management at the University of Guelph. But now the discussion is about who is responsible for funding who pays – corporations, the provinces or the federal government.

“There seems to be a bit of finger pointing right now,” Chhinzer said. “This political theater is not helping to move this conversation forward. There has to be some acceptance of responsibility.”

She said the problem was not resolved quickly enough, with businesses shutting down due to epidemics and workers being sent home without knowing how they could afford to pay the rent.

Regional officials urge province to act

Halton region officials urged the province to act on Tuesday afternoon, its third appeal in three months.

“It is now in the hands of the provincial government. It is no use to our community to see sick leave passed between levels of government like a hot potato,” said the statement signed by the regional president of Halton, Gary Carr, as well as the mayors. Oakville, Halton Hills, Burlington and Milton.

“We are calling on the province to do what is entirely in your power and act now on paid sick leave.”

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When Ford took office in 2018, one of his government’s first actions was to end the Liberals’ paid sick leave program, along with other labor reforms.

Since then, the Progressive Conservatives have put an end to several attempts by opposition parties to obtain unanimous consent for paid sick leave motions.

On Monday, the provincial government voted against a Liberal bill that would have required employers to provide workers with 10 paid days for medical emergencies.

With files from Meagan Fitzpatrick and David Cochrane

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