November 4th, 2020

Honouring Dr. Sheela Basrur: Public Health Accountability Act introduced for first reading

QUEEN’S PARK – MPP France Gélinas (Nickel Belt), the NDP’s Health critic, has introduced a new bill to bring transparency to public health decision-making in Ontario.

“This bill will do two important things,” said Gélinas. ”First, it will make the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) an independent officer of the legislature. Ontario is the only province where the CMOH is accountable to both the Minister of Health and the Legislative Assembly.

“Second, during a public health emergency, the bill would create a select committee of the legislature to hear directly from the CMOH and allow the CMOH to answer questions.

“Ontarians deserve to hear directly from provincial public health officials without any political interference. COVID-19 has shown us how important it is for public health officials to have the ability to speak out publicly when necessary.”

The bill is named in honour of Dr. Sheela Basrur. Dr. Basrur was Medical Officer of Health during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis and later became Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“Dr. Basrur showed us how important it was to have clear communication and transparent information during a public health crisis,” said Gélinas.

"The bill incorporates recommendations from the SARS report that states that the CMOH position should have a guarantee of independence in order to fulfil the responsibilities of the role.
In 2020, citizens are becoming overwhelmed with numerous competing statements with regard to the pandemic response. In the age of false news and misinformation, people need trusted sources of information during an emergency.”

Gélinas expects to bring her new bill for second reading debate on Dec. 1.