Ontario Premier Doug Ford is pleading with business owners to “have a heart” and keep their washrooms open for truck drivers, after drivers have found closed rest stops and limited access at gas stations to be a growing challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My friends, we’re all in this together. You have to let the truckers, when they stop for gas, if they stop for food, let them use the washrooms. Clean your washrooms, let them use your washrooms,” Ford said to media Tuesday.
Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of labour, training and skills development, shared a photo on Twitter earlier this week of four signs saying the businesses did not have washrooms available for truck drivers. “No drivers beyond this point,” one sign read.
A ministry spokesperson confirmed that all of the photos are from facilities in Ontario.
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Gas stations and truck stops were listed as essential services by the Ontario government amid the pandemic.
The premier said he has had conversations with the Ontario Trucking Association, the Women in Trucking Association and truck drivers themselves.
He said if it wasn’t for truck drivers, businesses wouldn’t be open because they wouldn’t have items to sell.
“So have a heart, you know, open up the washrooms for these truckers,” Ford said. “It’s not right, it’s not fair. They’re doing their job.”
Ford said that any provincial stop such as ONroute service centres will be open for truckers, but noted the locations may not be convenient for drivers in every situation.
Ken Johnston, Purolator’s head of human resources, said the problem is as critical in the city, if not more, as on the highway, with the majority of the courier company’s drivers working in urban areas at any given time.
Gas stations are typically the “last reliable place″ for a rest stop, but that’s changed over the past few weeks, Johnston said.
“Our couriers deliver critical supplies to hospitals, long-term care facilities and of course millions of Canadians who are now self-isolating or social distancing in their homes who need supplies. So in many ways we’re as much of a front-line worker in this effort as anyone,” he said.
“Without keeping them safe and healthy, it would have downstream impacts on all these other important functions.’”
Toronto Mayor John Tory also weighed in at a news conference Monday, urging businesses that are open to accommodate transit workers.
“Those operators, those bus drivers and streetcar operators and others, are serving us at a time when we need them to serve us, and we need to help them as they carry out their duties for us,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press