No word on whether Ontario will accept Ottawa's offer to send health-care workers

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TORONTO — There's no immediate word on whether Ontario's government will accept Ottawa's offer to send health-care workers to support the province's overtaxed health-care system.

But a spokeswoman for Ontario's health minister says the government is grateful for the federal show of support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The comments from Christine Elliott's office come hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he was scouring government departments to send all available health-care workers to Ontario, as well as preparing the pick up the tab to bring in personnel from other provinces.

Two days earlier, Premier Doug Ford issued a nationwide appeal for support for Ontario's strained hospitals and other health-care resources.

Ford's office did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

The prime minister also said Ottawa would send more COVID-19 tests to Ontario.

Prince Edward Island on the weekend became the latest province to say it would like to help but noted it, too, is fighting the pandemic at home.

Meanwhile, provincial opposition parties accused Ford of trying to hide from the anger caused by restrictions experts said were ineffective at curbing the pandemic spread, as well as his unwillingness to legislate paid sick days for workers.

Those accusations stemmed from word that the government was planning to shut down the legislature as early as Wednesday.

Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath said her New Democrats would not agree to any legislature shutdown until the Progressive Conservative government had reversed what she described as its "dangerous police-state orders" and replaced them with public health measures.

"We are not prepared to help Doug Ford go home, leaving a police state in place while he allows COVID-19 to run rampant, overrun hospitals, and steal the lives of Ontarians who would otherwise make it through this,” Horwath said in a statement.

In response, government House leader Paul Calandra said the proposed closure was to protect legislature support staff from COVID-19, something he said could not be accomplished by a virtual sitting.

"The government presented options to adjourn the legislature to keep those who support elected officials safe," Calandra said in a statement. "As is typical, the NDP have used this as an opportunity to score the cheapest of political points in the midst of a pandemic."

The legislature is currently scheduled to sit until June. Calandra said it would be in session this week, but did not provide more specific details.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca accused Ford of "hiding from the outrage he caused with his reckless actions and anti-science agenda."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press