Toronto headed for red zone, antes up restrictions as Ford changes tack on provincial framework

By Sabrina Nanji November 11, 2020

Premier Doug Ford switched up his message on the government’s looser colour-coded framework for Covid restrictions, stressing that it’s just “a baseline” on Tuesday.

That same day, Toronto Mayor John Tory and top doc Eileen de Villa announced measures above and beyond the province’s “Red-Control” zone, which Toronto is expected to enter on Saturday after coming out of the 28-day “modified Stage 2” lockdown. (It was previously headed for the more lax “Orange-Restrict” level, but case counts have continued to rise.)

That means indoor restaurants and bars will stay closed (the “Red-Control” level allows indoor dining for 10 people maximum) and indoor group fitness classes won’t be allowed, among other things, for another 28 days. De Villa also recommended people stick to their household, echoing Peel’s top doc, who had also imposed measures above and beyond the provincial red zone.

De Villa used her Section 22 powers under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. She previously said legal advice from city staff suggested the province would be better suited to impose the restrictions because there could be an influx of appeals at the local level. While that legal advice hasn’t changed, de Villa said she went ahead with the restrictions anyway because the situation is becoming more dire.

Speaking to reporters ahead of de Villa’s announcement, Ford encouraged local medical officers of health to take extra measures as they see fit, and emphasized the framework is meant to be a starting point. He brushed off questions about whether the different rules, recommendations and enforcement coming from the province and municipalities could be fuelling confusion.

“When we put this together, we treated this as a baseline,” Ford said, clarifying that “within any jurisdiction, the medical officer of health can add protocols, guidelines, so on and so forth, but at least we know where you’re at based on the numbers.”

Ford maintained it’s a “strong framework” that gives “certainty” to businesses and municipalities.

Business group says cities, province need to coordinate
Ontario Chamber of Commerce CEO Rocco Rossi acknowledged that having the province and cities lay out different restrictions can get “confusing” for businesses (particularly those with operations in multiple cities with different restrictions in place), so he stressed the importance of governments being on the same page.

“If there’s going to have to be additional restrictions, let’s not say ‘Here’s the baseline, and oh by the way some others could be added,’” Rossi said in an interview. “Let’s actually have those two levels of government talk, sort out what it’s going to be, and make one announcement so there is a sense that this is coordinated, it’s following the best science.”

Indeed, Tory was in tow for Ford’s daily press conference, but he didn’t announce the city’s additional measures until later on. Peel’s top doc Lawrence Loh also decided to go it alone with tougher measures after the province turned down his request to hold back the region for longer.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said that means local leaders are “losing faith” in Ford’s pandemic response. Del Duca also suggested Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was talking about Ontario when he urged the premiers to “do the right thing” and not ease restrictions “because they feel pressured” to reopen businesses.

“Doug Ford couldn’t provide leadership when it was needed most, and now federal and municipal governments are having to fill the void,” Del Duca said.