COVID-19 sidelines two Ontario party leaders mid-election campaign

By Allison Jones

TORONTO – Two of the leaders of Ontario’s four major political parties have been sidelined with COVID-19 with two weeks left to election day.

Both NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner have tested positive, with Horwath’s result coming Thursday morning and Schreiner’s coming the previous evening.

All four party leaders were in relatively close proximity and unmasked on Monday night during a televised election debate. Horwath said she doesn’t know where she caught the virus and Schreiner said he tested himself Wednesday after close contact with a staff member who ended up testing positive.

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca both tested negative Thursday.

Horwath and Schreiner are now campaigning virtually, but it takes them off the campaign trail in person at pivotal moments.

Schreiner was trying to build momentum following a debate performance that earned him plaudits and Horwath was just about to embark on a tour of the north, a critical area of support for her party.

“I am really regretful that that’s been turned around,” Horwath said over Zoom on Thursday morning.

“I feel like I have something. I feel like I have a bit of a bug, you know, headache and sore throat. Not really bad, though, I’ve been taking Tylenol, and that kind of takes the fever down. But I’m certainly not 100 per cent.”

Horwath said she will not return to the campaign trail in person until she returns negative tests for COVID-19. Current public health guidelines only require her to self-isolate for five days, but many people report testing positive for 10 days or more.

Schreiner was unclear on how long he would stay in isolation, only saying he would campaign remotely “as long as I need to, to make sure we prioritize health and safety.”

“I’m confident that we’ll be able to continue campaigning, and building on the momentum we have,” he said over Zoom.

Ford said he tested himself Thursday morning “out of an abundance of caution.”

“I encourage everyone across Ontario to continue following the protocols,” he said. “(If) you have symptoms, please get tested.”

Del Duca said he will test daily and wishes Horwath and Schreiner speedy recoveries.

“I think this is a good reminder that though we all want to be on the other side of this pandemic, that there are still risks, and that so many here in Mississauga and across Ontario, are still struggling,” he said.

“We can’t simply just pretend that everything is fine, that everyone’s OK.”

Meanwhile, advance voting locations opened Thursday, running until May 28, ahead of the June 2 election.