May 19th, 2021

Horwath calls for full judicial inquiry into Ontario’s COVID-19 response to launch in September

QUEEN’S PARK — Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath is calling for a full, independent judicial inquiry into Ontario’s over all COVID-19 response — spelling out a September start date, and key areas to be probed.

More than 8,500 Ontarians have lost their lives to COVID-19 and more than half a million people in the province have been sickened by the virus.

“The pandemic may have been more brutal and deadly in Ontario than it needed to be,” said Horwath. “Our hospitals neared the brink of collapse. Thousands of beloved parents and grandparents were left unprotected and perished in long-term care. And frontline workers worked without proper PPE, without paid sick days and without enough testing and contact tracing to keep them safe.

“It didn’t have to be this way, but Doug Ford ignored the experts — he just didn’t want to spend the money to save lives in long-term care, on hotspots, or to protect working folks.”

Other jurisdictions have launched public inquiries into their handling of COVID-19, including the United Kingdom.

“We need to know what went right. There are lessons to be learned from the incredible success stories created through the hard work of nurses and frontline health care workers, local public health authorities, hospitals, teachers and education workers, municipal councils and non-profits and their staff,” said Horwath.

“But a lot went wrong, and sorrow for survivors, victims and families hurt by bad choices and broken systems is not enough. Let’s give people justice and accountability. And let’s make sure that we never, ever again have a government that makes a public health emergency even worse.”

Experts including Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician and faculty member at McMaster University and the University of Toronto, called for a public inquiry into areas like the vaccine rollout because “the Ontario government ignored the advice of experts & scientists, which led to hundreds of unnecessary deaths in LTC & many more vaccine-preventable deaths of essential workers.”

Horwath said that the inquiry into Ontario’s COVID response must be empowered to find and fix issues as they are identified and, at minimum, examine:

  1. Ontario’s pandemic readiness, failure to learn lesson from SARS, and the impact of cuts before the pandemic
  2. Ontario’s speed of response, and how quickly the province moved out funding and supplies like PPE to protect people and stop the spread
  3. The protection of seniors in long-term care
  4. Supports for local businesses and workers
  5. COVID-19 in schools, and education during the pandemic
  6. The introduction of the disastrous colour-coded restrictions system, and repeated failures to follow, or disclose, expert recommendations
  7. The impact of mixed messaging, poor communications and contradictory directives
  8. The inequities experienced by people living in hotspots, and by people more likely to contract COVID-19, or die from the virus
  9. The rollout of the vaccine program


  • Public Judicial Inquiries are established under the Public Inquires Act, and can be struck either by cabinet, or an Act passed by the legislature.
  • In Feb. 2021, Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath tabled a bill to prepare for a full public inquiry. Her bill, The COVID-19 Public Inquiry Act, lays out the timelines, and requirement for public hearings and public reporting during the inquiry.