Premier's office calls Ottawa mayor 'reckless and irresponsible' for opposing lockdown
OTTAWA -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford is suggesting politics is at play in Ottawa mayor Jim Watson's opposition to Ottawa joining the rest of southern Ontario in a 28-day provincewide lockdown.
Earlier Tuesday, the premier's office blasted Watson and medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches for expressing opposition to a lockdown in Ottawa in a series of talking points obtained by CTV News.
"It is reckless and irresponsible for Ottawa’s Mayor and Medical Officer to denounce Ontario’s provincewide shutdown," the talking points say. "Some politicians and pundits may be okay with body bags piling up on their front door steps but we are not.”
Watson was strongly opposed to the province imposing a lockdown on the city, saying on Monday that there are "no facts to support a lockdown in the city of Ottawa," and that the decision to impose the lockdown "is not based on our numbers or on the professional advice from OPH to the province's chief medical officer of health."
The talking points suggest the provincial government is not pleased with the mayor's comments that the city is handling the pandemic well.
"While they may argue that they have COVID-19 under control in Ottawa, it is clear that an all hands on deck approach is needed to break these staggering trends," another talking point says. "Ottawa is not an island; we have to protect the people in the 'orange' zone – the same as any other region."
Mayor Watson's office told CTV News the mayor would not be commenting Tuesday as he stands by his original statements.
'I'm here to protect people's lives': Ford says politics at play in mayor's response
Ford was not as harsh as the talking points when responding to a question about Watson's comments, but stood firm on his decision about the lockdown.
Speaking to reporters at Queen's Park on Tuesday, Ford said he thought Watson's comments were a case of politics, but he had more important things on his mind.
"To get in an argument, a back-and-forth over—honestly, in my opinion, it's a little bit of politics going on—I don't care about politics. I'm here to protect people's lives," Ford said.
The premier said he has a lot of respect for Watson and Dr. Etches, but also said that Ottawa's COVID-19 status is not as sound as the mayor is making it out to be.
"Mayor Watson has been a tremendous partner and his support has been absolutely critical throughout this whole pandemic," Ford said. "We're going to continue to monitor the shutdown measures and I'd love nothing more than to ease them… Talking directly to the people of Ottawa, I have to remind everyone in Ottawa, you're in the orange-restrict level. You aren't in yellow, you aren't in green."
Ottawa has been in the "orange-restrict" level since Nov.7 and has shown no significant signs of the situation improving or getting worse.
Ford also cited a recent report from Ottawa's COVID-19 wastewater surveillance showing levels of the virus in the city's sewage rising between Dec. 2 and Dec. 17
"This is what I'm talking about, folks in Ottawa. The new report on the levels of COVID-19 found in the sewage are spiking up," he said. "We can't take anything lightly. As soon as we think we're out of it, it comes back with a vengeance. We've seen it. Now is not the time to ignore the experts."
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's "Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron", Dr. Alex MacKenzie, who is co-leading the wastewater study, says while levels are on the rise, it's not a worrying trend right now. He says the level of COVID-19 in Ottawa's wastewater is comparable to September.
"We’ve been doing this delicate dance for months now," Dr. MacKenzie said. "This terrifying idea it’ll spiral up and be northern Italy, I don’t think we’re looking at that."
Ford said he messaged Watson to say that he prays to God COVID-19 levels do not spike in the city.
"I'll continue to do whatever it takes to take care of the people of Ottawa. I always have. I think it's a great community and you've done a phenomenal job," Ford said.
A previous version of this article mistakenly and unintentionally forgot the words "do not" in the sentence, "Ford said he messaged Watson to say that he prays to God COVID-19 levels *do not* spike in the city."
The author sincerely regrets the error and apologizes for any confusion.