Premier Doug Ford is defending Ontario’s top public health official amid calls for his resignation, telling reporters that David Williams is “working his back off” and deserves credit for the province’s success in limiting the spread of COVID-19 so far.
Ford made the comment during a press conference in Bracebridge on Friday afternoon.
It comes on the heels of a story published in the QP Briefing earlier this week in which Registered Nurses Association ofOntario CEO Doris Grinspun took issue with Williams’s response to the global pandemic and called for his removal as chief medical officer of health, noting that he is “not fit for the job.”
“They have been calling for Dr. Williams’s head since the beginning and I take personal offence to that,” Ford said when asked about Grinspun’s remarks on Friday. “This man doesn’t sleep. He is out there protecting the people and the numbers speak for themselves.”
In the QP Briefing report, Grinspun accused Williams of providing “wish washy” guidance around the reopening of schools and making a litany of mistakes earlier in the pandemic which contributed to the more than 1,800 deaths in long-term care homes.
She also took issue with remarks he made suggesting that many health care workers who have contracted the virus have done so in the community after becoming too “casual” in their personal life, calling the suggestion “absurd.”
“We are entering a second wave of the pandemic and we can’t afford at this time to have any slowdowns in leadership,” she told CP24 following Ford’s remarks on Friday. “As you know in the first round we started late, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) was late, testing was late, it all came after we were pushing and pushing and as result we had over 1,800 residents in long term care losing their lives, many preventable. We cannot afford a slow movement in the second wave and we need a leader that follows the evidence.”
Grinspun told CP24 that she believes Ford also “had his own doubts” about Williams’s leadership, particularly earlier in the pandemic when Ontario was last in Canada on a per capita basis in testing.
Ford, however, did not express that on Friday. He called Williams “an absolute champion” and said that he would stand beside him “any day, any pandemic.”
He also credited Williams for working “collaboratively” in helping to lead Ontario’s response to the pandemic.
“To the media and everyone: it is so easy to play armchair quarterback and criticize people that are going around the clock. You know, contribute,” he said after briefly moving on to another question and then returning to the issue of Williams’s leadership. “I always say there are complainers, complainers, complainers and then there are people who say let’s make things happen.”
Williams has faced called for his resignation before, including one made by epidemiologist Dr. David Fisman back in April.