As farm tractors surround Queen’s Park and heavy trucks make their way into downtown Toronto to protest Ontario’s two-year-long COVID-19 mandates, Ontario premier Doug Ford is calling the Ottawa trucker convoy an “occupation.”
Ford made the comments Friday while appearing virtually at an online premiers’ conference.
“Regarding Ottawa, the occupation. It’s not a protest anymore. It’s become an occupation,” Ford said. “It’s only hurting families. It’s hurting businesses that these folks are supposed to be supporting, but it’s hurting businesses in a big way. People want to move on and to get through this. It’s time for this to come to an end. And we’re moving in the right direction.”
Ford said he was already planning on getting rid of some COVID restrictions before the Freedom Convoy got to Ottawa on Jan. 29 and before another set course for Toronto on Friday.
“You know what’s a shame?” Ford said. “Everyone worked so well together for 22 months – not just here in Ontario, across Canada, and, you know, the public health measures are being lifted as we speak.”
“We went for the first stage; we are going to the second stage shortly. There’s one thing that brings everyone together no matter if you’re in Ontario or across Canada is working together to get out of this.”
It is currently against the law in Ontario to have private indoor gatherings of more than 10, while outdoor events are capped at 25. Public events are allowed to have 25 people inside, while facilities such as restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theatres are all at half capacity.
As with other provinces, Ontarians need to show proof of two COVID shots to enter restaurants, bars, dance clubs, convention centres, meeting spaces, gyms, waterparks, sporting events, casinos, theatres and other facilities.
People also must wear masks indoors in places such as shopping malls, grocery stores and sporting events.
“If you think myself, or any of the premiers like this, you think we like, you know, lockdowns or public health measures?” Ford asked himself. “We don’t; they were necessary.”
Ontario is set to fractionally increase capacity limits for indoor and outdoor events on Feb. 21, and to remove most capacity limits March 14.
Ford has not, however, announced any plans to get rid of the COVID vaccine passport in Ontario, and the province’s website says even after March 14 that “proof of vaccination will be maintained in existing settings in addition to other regular measures.”
Ford’s comments came the same day GoFundMe announced it had cancelled the Freedom Convoy’s fundraiser, saying that it “now has evidence that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”
To date, only Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe have committed to lifting all of their provinces’ COVID restrictions in the near future.