POLITICS
03/20/2020 15:11 EDT | Updated 03/24/2020 15:28 EDT

Doug Ford Says Food Is More Important Than Rent At Coronavirus Press Conference

No one will get evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic, the premier promised.

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford said people struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic should prioritize food over rent during an emotional press conference Friday. 

“If you’re down and out, you just don’t have the money, food’s more important to put on the table than pay rent, then put the food on the table,” the premier said at Queen’s Park. “If you need medical help or you’re spending money on essential services, make sure that’s a priority.” 

People who can afford their rent should keep paying, he added.

“That’s the right thing to do … I respect the landlords. They have a business. But we’re in unusual times right now. My job as premier is always to protect the people.”

On Thursday, Ford announced evictions would be suspended “until further notice.”

... we’re in unusual times right now.Premier Doug Ford

The COVID-19 crisis has brought much of Ontario’s economy to a halt. Airlines and restaurants are laying off workers, in some cases by the thousands. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has expanded Employment Insurance (E.I.) benefits and Ontario passed a law Thursday to let employees take unpaid, job-protected leave if they’re ill or have to care for children while schools are closed. 

Trudeau said Friday that Service Canada, the agency that processes EI applications, received 500,000 calls this week. That’s up from 27,000 calls in the same week last year, he said.

“I know people are anxious to get the help they deserve and our government is working as fast as possible to support them … This is, of course, an unprecedented situation.”

Ontario’s Opposition leader says the province should pass a law to guarantee tenants are protected.

“I’m calling on Doug Ford to table a bill ... to guarantee in law that no one can be evicted for any reason during the pandemic, nor punished in any way for missing a rent payment,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said in a statement Thursday.

“As much as possible, Ontarians should not be leaving their homes as we all practice social distancing, and they certainly should not be tossed onto the streets, and left to scramble for a new home right now.”

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