February 18th, 2021

Horwath calls for public inquiry into Ontario’s handling of pandemic

NDP Leader says review needed as soon as COVID-19 crisis has passed

QUEEN’S PARK — Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has tabled a bill calling for a full, public, independent judicial inquiry into Ontario’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, to make sure the province is better prepared for the next major health event, and never repeats the same mistakes again.

To date, the pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 6,700 people in Ontario, many of them in long-term care.

“Today, people need help to get through the pandemic and hope that this will be the last lockdown — and we can give them that with urgent action, like ensuring workers have paid sick days, making schools safer with a class size cap, and staffing up long-term care homes,” said Horwath. “But soon, when the danger is behind us, there will come a time to examine what went wrong, so we can take active steps to make sure it never happens again. I think of the thousands of families ripped apart by the loss of a loved one, of the frontline workers who didn’t have the personal protective equipment they needed to stay safe, and of the questions that haunt us all, like: if we had done more, sooner, how many people could we have saved?”

There were invaluable recommendations made after SARS, including recommendations to maintain a stock of personal protective equipment and to provide personal protective equipment based on the precautionary principle, among others.

“It’s shameful that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives followed the lessons learned from the SARS crisis, leaving us without a stock of personal protective equipment heading into the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Horwath. “It would be unforgivable for Doug Ford to choose to repeat mistakes like that. This time the government needs to put public health ahead of money and politics, and get this right for Ontario.”

Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission has already revealed deadly gaps in the government’s response and made unanswered interim recommendations like increasing staffing in long-term care homes. But because it’s a commission, its work has taken place behind closed doors, excluded families and others involved, and Ford has been able to shut it down prematurely.

“People deserve a full, independent account of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they deserve hope and reassurance that Ontario will be better prepared and better protected when the next public health emergency comes,” said Horwath. “The only way we can get that is through a full, public, independent judicial inquiry, and I am urging the government to commit to launching one as soon as we get through the immediate crisis.”

Horwath’s bill sets out that the examination of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic must be done under the Public Inquiries Act.