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Niagara Falls
Saturday, February 24, 2024
COVID-19: Gates demands more protective gear for front-line workers

New Democrat Wayne Gates was at Queen’s Park Wednesday, with a limited number of other MPPs, to call on the province to provide front-line workers with more desperately needed personal protective equipment to keep them safe during the pandemic.

“There is nothing more important than a worker going to work and feeling safe,” Gates, said during question period in the legislature.

“That was true before this pandemic and it’s true now more than ever. But in Ontario, this is not happening,” said Gates.

The MPP for Niagara Falls riding, which includes Niagara-on-the-Lake, is the official opposition’s critic for workplace health and safety.

“In my own riding I have health care workers who have been hospitalized after contracting COVID-19 on the job without proper PPE,” he said.

“We’ve heard it from the front lines: They need more PPE and they need the right PPE. When will these front-line heroes get the equipment they need to stay safe themselves when they’re keeping us safe?” Gates asked Premier Doug Ford.

He reminded Ford that 17 per cent of Ontario’s confirmed cases are health care workers. In early April, only 10 per cent of cases were health care workers.

Nurses, doctors, lab technicians, personal support workers, therapists, custodians and other workers are among those who are getting sick.

Gates told the legislature that keeping workers safe must be a priority of this government and one of the ways to do that is for people who feel unsafe to be able to refuse unsafe work.

Early in the pandemic Ford said workers could walk off the job if they felt unsafe – but in 200 instances of work refusals since then, the government has ordered the workers back to work, whether they felt safe or not, the New Democrats said in news release.

Gates urged Ford to enforce laws that protect the rights of workers. “My question is simple – when is the government going to start enforcing the laws of this province that actually protect workers who are trusting their premier and taking his advice?”

Health Minister Christine Elliott responded that “we are working day and night” through regular supply chains and with companies in Ontario to obtain more personal protective equipment.

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