Doug Ford acknowledges division in his family over COVID-19 rules
Daughter's opposition to vaccine mandates hasn't influenced Ford's actions, says source in premier's office
Ontario Premier Doug Ford acknowledged division in his family over COVID-19 restrictions at the same time as he announced his government's plan for ending the province's vaccine passport system.
The pandemic has "fractured us as a society" with differing views about vaccines, public health measures and personal freedoms, Ford said during his news conference Monday.
"All of it has polarized us in a way that we could have never imagined," Ford continued, reading from prepared remarks. "I've experienced this in my own family; it's been one of the hardest things my family and I have ever gone through."
This is the first time he has spoken publicly about disagreement within his family over COVID-19 restrictions. Ford did not go into detail, but one of his four daughters, Krista Ford Haynes, has in recent months become an increasingly vocal opponent of masking rules, vaccine mandates and pandemic restrictions imposed by governments.
She is also an outspoken supporter of the protesters who shut down the most important border crossing in Ontario for a week and who continue to occupy downtown Ottawa.
WATCH | Premier Doug Ford speaks of divisions over COVID-19 rules in his family
Ford announced Monday that Ontario's proof-of-vaccination system will end on March 1, but has not announced a date for lifting the provincewide masking rules for indoor spaces. His announcement came "not because of what's happening in Ottawa or Windsor, but despite it," Ford said during the news conference.
"This period has been one of the most divisive times in our history," Ford added.
It's unclear from the context if the period he was referring to is the entire pandemic or the past month of protests, but the extent of the divisions is a point of debate.
While there is fresh polling suggesting a majority of Canadians now want to see restrictions being lifted, there's been consistent polling data for months showing broad-based support for COVID-19 prevention measures such as workplace vaccination mandates, vaccine passports and mandatory masking.
As well, polling has shown little support for the protests that began in January ostensibly triggered by the vaccination requirement for cross-border truckers.
Ford also mentioned pandemic-driven rifts last Friday during his news conference to announce Ontario's state of emergency aimed at bringing an end to the protests, but did not mention his family.
"The toughest thing I can tell the folks out there about this whole pandemic is the divide we see from co-workers, from friends and family," he said.
A source in the premier's office says the division with his daughter has been very painful for Ford but rejects any claim that the rift has been a factor in his response to the pandemic.
"His actions have shown otherwise," said the source.
"Nothing she has said or done has influenced his decision-making," the source added. "The premier has never wavered from actions that have been necessary, and he has always relied on the advice of the chief medical officers of health."
For months, Ford Haynes has peppered her Instagram feed with posts critical of COVID-19 vaccination mandates and questioning the safety of the vaccines. The Instagram feed had been private, but was recently switched to public.
She was also promoted as a special guest at a December public event in Whitby, Ont., with speakers whom the organizers said "have faced government COVID enforcement, including jail time and fines, for resisting medical tyranny."
In one post, Ford Haynes encouraged people not to show proof of vaccination at any locations that require it. "If the government wants to enforce their tyranny, they can send bylaw [officers] to each and every single business in Ontario," she wrote.
Last summer, she posted a video in which she reads from a pamphlet encouraging vaccination. "'The vaccines cannot give you COVID-19,'" she read aloud, then added, "Might want to fact-check that."
In late January, as the anti-vaccine-mandate trucker convoy passed through Toronto en route to Ottawa, Ford Haynes posted a photo in which she holds one end of a flag emblazoned "F--k Trudeau."
"I'm so, so proud to be Canadian right now and standing alongside my fellow brave Canadians," Ford Haynes said in a video posted to her public Instagram account last Wednesday.
"The ones right now that are at our borders and Ottawa, they are just posting up and they're sacrificing so much right now. You guys are our soldiers."
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on Monday said the premier's announcement of an end to the vaccine passport sends a message that he is giving in to the demands of the protesters.
"That's what happened here. Doug Ford is basically caving to the occupiers," she told a news conference in Windsor, Ont.
Horwath pointed to Ford's comment that Ontario is lifting the proof-of-vaccination rules not because of the protests, but despite them.
"He put it straight up in his remarks that it wasn't about coddling these anti-vaxxers or these occupiers. But I have to say, if it looks like a duck, it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, certainly it's a duck."
Horwath did not speak about the family divisions Ford raised during his announcement, and an NDP spokesperson declined further comment.
Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca said in an emailed statement: "I have no idea what influences Doug Ford's erratic leadership on these issues, nor do I have any wish to comment on his family. The problem is Ford, not his family, and the solution is to replace him with a strong, stable Liberal government."