A spokesperson for Canada’s public safety minister says the federal government has received a “draft” request for assistance from the Ontario government as the province continues to grapple with record-high COVID-19 cases.
“We are working closely with Ontario, and all provinces and territories, to help support them through this pandemic,” Mary-Liz Power, the director of communications to Minister Bill Blair, told Global News in a statement Thursday evening.
“We have received Ontario’s draft letter. We are currently in discussions with the province to determine how best we can support them with more resources.”
However, the exact nature of that assistance wasn’t immediately clear as it would be the subject of negotiations between both levels of government.
The federal government could deploy medical staff from the Canadian Armed Forces or the assistance could come in the form of additional staff and volunteers from the Canadian Red Cross.
Red Cross staff and volunteers are able to help with providing surge capacity for health-care facilities and provide emergency field hospital elements. They are also able to provide training on the use of personal protective equipment and conduct wellness checks for people isolating.
When asked about the issue, a federal government source not authorized to speak publicly cautioned that a “draft” request for help is not an official or formal request. The source told Global News the “draft” letter is typically the process used whenever a provincial government asks the federal government for urgent assistance.
However, a spokesperson for Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones told Global News such a request wasn’t made by Jones or Health Minister Christine Elliott.
“Our only request to the federal government at this time is a greater and more steady supply of vaccines,” Stephen Warner said in a brief written statement Thursday evening.
News of potentially tapping additional federal resources came as Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet met in Toronto on Thursday to discuss a further range of measures that could be implemented in order to address strained hospital capacity and soaring COVID-19 cases.
The Ontario government reported 4,736 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, setting an all-time daily high — a record shattered just days ago.