Blasting U.S. President Donald Trump for slapping an embargo on the shipment of crucial pandemic supplies to Canada, Premier Doug Ford says Americans should remember “united we stand, divided we fall.”
“We’re stronger together than we are separated. In a major crisis, they want to cut everyone else off? That is totally unacceptable. Canadians wouldn’t do that,” Ford said Saturday at his Queen’s Park teleconference.
“When you sit back and you think of your allies and the wars we’ve gone through, and we’ve stood shoulder to shoulder fighting the same enemies. And now we have an enemy and we’re at war and they want to shut things down with their closest ally in the world?” he said.
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized that Canada is “not looking at retaliatory measures or measures that are punitive” after Trump tightened restrictions to limit the export of 3M’s much-needed N95 masks and other medical equipment to combat COVID-19.
While Ford said he agreed with Trudeau’s restraint and hoped diplomacy would prevail, the premier reminded Trump that about 1,000 nurses and other health-care workers live in Windsor and cross the border to work in Detroit every day.
“It shouldn’t come down to this. We have 1,000 nurses leaving Ontario that we’re in desperate need (of) going to help Americans,” he said.
“How would the people in Michigan feel … if all of a sudden we said, ‘OK, the 1,000 nurses, we’re in desperate need and you need to stay here in Ontario and you aren’t going down to Michigan,’” warned Ford.
“That would be a wake-up call for them, but it shouldn’t come down to that. There’s no one that loves America more than I do. They’ve cut out one part of the family. It’s not right,” the premier said.
“When the cards are down, you see who your friends are, and I think it’s been very clear over the last couple of days who our friends are. You know who our friends are? Every Canadian, look in the mirror, that’s who are our friends are right now.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney echoed Ford’s sentiment, saying Saturday that “as a Canadian, I’m insulted by the Trump administration’s attempt to stop vital medical supplies coming into Canada.”
“This is not in anyone’s best interest, and it’s not how friends and neighbours treat each other when things get tough,” said Kenney.
On Saturday, Ontario’s local public health units reported an increase of 393 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths, bringing the tally to 113 by the Star’s latest count. In Toronto, there was an increase of 101 cases since Friday.
Provincial officials warned Friday that 1,600 people could die in April if stricter physical distancing measures aren’t followed.
With Trudeau promising “millions” of masks will be shipped to Canada within the next two days — and pointedly mentioning that Quebec would get an allotment of those — Ford said Ontario “would expect 40 per cent of the items” because the province is home to about 40 per cent of Canadians.
“I also hear the prime minister mention Quebec. I love (Quebec Premier) François Legault, but he should get his fair share, we should get our fair share, and the rest of the country should get their fair share,” he said, adding “I’ll be like a dog on a bone” to ensure that.
“I hope to God that they start dividing this up equally, because we’ve all been working well together.”
Also Saturday, the Ontario government sent out its second emergency alert in a week, urging people to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus and “only go out if absolutely necessary to pick up groceries, prescriptions or go to a medical appointment.”
Ford emphasized supply chains are flowing and chided those who think they need to loot shuttered stores or restaurants for supplies.
“If … you have civil disobedience, it turns into anarchy and that’s unacceptable. We aren’t that type of people,” he said.
To help ensure there are enough agri-food workers to keep Ontarians fed, the government launched a new web portal, connecting people with potential employers.
“Right now, there are important jobs that need to be filled across the food supply chain and we are looking for individuals … to step up and provide an essential service,” said Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman.
“From farm to fork, it’s these dedicated heroes in the agri-food sector who are working through this difficult period each and every day to keep food on our kitchen tables,” said Hardman, directing people looking for jobs to www.Ontario.ca/AgFoodJobs.
With many more businesses being forced to close as of Sunday because they are not deemed essential, tens of thousands of Ontarians are looking for work.
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie