Ontario premier fires back after being slammed by celebrity chef Mark McEwan

Doug Ford (left) and Mark McEwan (right) are seen in this composite image. (The Canadian Press and Twitter)

After being called out by celebrity chef Mark McEwan in regards to the closure of indoor dining in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford responded with his own harsh words.

“I have a great deal of respect for Mark McEwan, he’s a great entrepreneur – one of the greatest restaurant owners – but unfortunately Mark is not a medical professional, he’s a business owners,” the premier said during a news conference held on Friday afternoon.

“I respect what he is saying but again, we have to focus on the health and the safety of everyone across the province.”

On Twitter, McEwan, who is based in Toronto, called on the premier to “lead Ontario back to work safely.”

“Shutdowns are a mistake,” he wrote online on Thursday. “Do the right thing and lead the economy back. Bold leadership. Be brave Doug Ford.”

On Oct. 9, the Ontario government reverted Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa to a modified version of Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan. Since then, indoor dining has not been allowed in those three areas. The same order was given to York Region on Oct. 16. On Friday, Ford said officials are meeting this weekend to discuss if any other regions will be placed under the new restrictions as of Monday.

When asked for reaction to McEwan’s criticism, Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott defended their government’s action, saying it was done based on scientific evidence.

“We’ve been advised by our public health measures table – by Dr. Williams and his team – that these are measures that we have to take in order to stop the community spread of COVID-19,” Elliott said.

“While we recognize this is very difficult for many business owners, this is the advice we have received from the medical professionals, the public health professionals that this is something we need to do right now.”

Another Toronto-area restauranteur calls for help

On Friday morning, another Toronto-area restaurateur expressed his concern over keeping businesses afloat during the second wave of the pandemic.

Paramount Fine Foods CEO Mohamad Fakih told CP24 he respects the Ford government’s decision to order the suspension of indoor dining in COVID-19 hot spots, but finds it “ridiculous and irresponsible” that weeks after the announcement, support is nowhere to be found.

He said he has not seen any details about the Ford’s government plan of $300 million to help shuttered restaurants cover fixed costs.

Fakih said he has already had to cover one month’s rent at his dozens of restaurants and is now trying to figure out how he will come up with enough money to cover November’s rent amid a significant drop in revenue.

“So small businesses, like my franchisees, I don’t think will make it 60 days because we are paying rent for two months, full rent, 100 per cent, taxes, expenses," he said. “The provincial and federal governments need to get this right. This is the second time around. There is no way that several levels of government should not be able to figure out subsidies for the most hard-hit business sector in Canada in eight months.”

On Friday afternoon, Elliott said “there are some economic points of assistance that we will be providing.”

“We know there is community transmission that is happening from some restaurant and bars,” she added. “The evidence also says that if you take these steps now, it prevents us from having to go into a longer period of lockdown with more economic shutdowns.”

To date, the province has recorded more than 68,000 positive cases of COVID-19, including more than 3,000 deaths and nearly 60,000 recoveries.

The premier and minister were in Picton on Friday to announce that the provincial government is investing an additional $8.7 million to support the planning and design of the new Quinte Health Care Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital. The renovation will include six more in-patient beds and a larger 24/7 emergency department.