Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. (File photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. (File photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Ontario NDP leader asks feds for help with migrant workers

The leader of Ontario's opposition is seeking clarification from the federal government on whether migrant workers with COVID-19 should continue to work.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has sent a letter to MP Carla Qualtrough, federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, asking for assistance in protecting migrant workers and demanding consistency on how the workers should be protected.

"It's been clear for some time that measures to protect these workers have been woefully inadequate," wrote Horwath. "As minister responsible for the Temporary Foreign Worker program, you should be ready to take action if the Ontario government's measures fail to protect these workers and public health."

Horwath has also accused the provincial government of inaction when it comes to protecting these employees, which made up the most significant percentage of new coronavirus cases in Windsor-Essex. In her letter to Qualthrough, Horwath cited a Globe and Mail report that suggested workers who tested positive for COVID-19 should not be allowed to work.

"This statement is at odds with the recommendations of the Province of Ontario, which has recommended these asymptomatic workers continue to work, provided they remain separated from non-infected workers," wrote Horwath. "These discrepancies between Ontario and the federal government have ramifications not just for the workers themselves, who very often have a language barrier, but also for the agricultural sector businesses that employ them."

Horwath has also asked the federal government for clarification on funding for personal protective equipment (PPE), and on migrant workers being able to take paid sick days without worrying about losing their jobs.

The letter was co-signed by Essex MPP Taras Natyshak, whose riding covers Kingsville and Leamington, two communities dependent on temporary foreign labour, and have been hard hit by the pandemic.

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