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N.L. offers Ontario relief medical staff through COVID-19 third wave, premier says

·4 min read
The support from Newfoundland and Labrador will not include the redeployment of vaccines, according to Furey. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
The support from Newfoundland and Labrador will not include the redeployment of vaccines, according to Furey. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Saturday about providing assistance to Ontario, as that province tackles its third wave of COVID-19.

"We have offered to the Prime Minister, as we did to Premier Ford last week, any support Newfoundland and Labrador could give in terms of personnel, equipment, supplies. Within our own capacity, of course," Furey said Sunday on CBC's Rosemary Barton Live.

"Newfoundland and Labrador is a small province, but we recognize the significant impact this is having on Canadians living in Ontario. And we want to be able to help."

Ontario reported 4,250 new COVID-19 cases and 18 new deaths on Sunday, while more than 2000 people are in hospital, nearly 750 in intensive care units with COVID-related illness and about 500 people are on ventilators, as modelling predicts their caseloads will remain high throughout the summer.

Furey says sending a group of organized medical professionals to help in COVID-19 units and critical care units would be "an incredible asset for the people of Ontario."

"And that's what we're trying to organize right now here on the ground," he said.

Support won't include vaccine supply

However, when asked about Ford's management of the pandemic and criticism about not putting public health measures in place sooner, Furey didn't lay blame at Ford's feet.

"I don't see COVID-19 as recognizing any provincial barriers," Furey said.

"This is the benefit of the federation, when you can call on your neighbours to help in tough times. And Newfoundland and Labrador have always stepped up in tough times of crisis... and we intend to help here and now."

He said support from Newfoundland and Labrador would likely come in the form of relief for Ontario's medical personnel working through the pandemic.

The support from Newfoundland and Labrador will not include the redeployment of vaccines, according to Furey.
The support from Newfoundland and Labrador will not include the redeployment of vaccines, according to Furey.(Evan Mitsui/CBC)

But Furey said the province will not forego its share of vaccine supply to meet demand in hotspots across the country because he says the provincial government is still operating under a per capita calculation.

"It's now a forest fire. You need firefighters. You don't need the fire prevention unit," Furey said of Ontario's COVID-19 case counts.

"Even if [they] had all the vaccine right now at this particular moment to take, there's a 10 to 14 day immunity uptake before you're able to have an impact."

Meanwhile Furey is also relying on his experience as a surgeon and the founder of Team Broken Earth, a medical non-profit, which provided medical assistance to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

"I've seen how a small province can give back on an international stage. Sometimes it's the medical relief that comes in small packages that makes a big impact in local communities," he said.

"We'd love to be able to provide some personnel, even if it's in a relief capacity. I imagine [Ontario's] healthcare professionals are working just tirelessly, which is one of the lessons we learned after the earthquake in Port au Prince."

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey, left, has spoken with Ontario Premier Doug Ford several times offering relief and support to medical personnel in Ontario.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey, left, has spoken with Ontario Premier Doug Ford several times offering relief and support to medical personnel in Ontario.(CBC)

Ford spoke publicly of Furey's outreach during Ontario's Friday COVID-19 briefing, saying he hopes to visit the Atlantic provinces when the pandemic ends.

"A small place like Newfoundland, they wear their heart on their sleeves out there," Ford said Friday. "I'm so, so grateful. Very grateful. Andrew, thank you."

N.L. watching Monday budget release

Furey was also asked about Monday's upcoming federal budget, saying he will be watching for spending on child care programs and green infrastructure.

"We have an ability to to really be the green battery that can drive the east coast of Canada. And we're interested to see where that goes," he said.

On childcare, Furey is interested to see federal funding and partnerships, noting that he implemented $25-a-day daycare at regulated facilities in this province in his first six months in office.

"And I'm interested in moving that number down," he said of child care costs.

Monday's budget will be the first budget released since 2019. The 2020 budget was not released due to COVID-19.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador