NDP bill would make Ontario’s top doctor an independent officer of the legislature

QUEEN’S PARK – NDP Health critic France Gélinas (Nickel Belt) and MPP Bhutila Karpoche (Parkdale—High Park) have brought forward a bill to make Ontario’s top doctor an independent officer of the legislature.

Currently, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is accountable to both the Minister of Health and to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Ontario is the only province where this is the case.

If passed, the Public Health Accountability Act (In Honour of Dr. Sheela Basrur) would also strike a select committee in the event of a public health emergency. The committee would provide a forum for elected officials to ask questions of and hear directly from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“Clear communication and transparency from public health officials is critical during a public health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gélinas. “Complete independence is the only way we can guarantee the province’s chief medical officer of health is empowered to share information directly with the public as needed to keep people healthy and safe.”

Guaranteeing the independence of the Chief Medical Officer of Health was one of the recommendations to come out of the SARS report. The bill is named in honour of the late Dr. Sheela Basrur, who served as Ontario’s top doctor after serving as Toronto’s top doctor during SARS.

“Let’s not let another public health emergency pass by without putting lessons from SARS into action,” said Karpoche. “Making Ontario’s top doctor totally independent will help ensure people receive and trust the best possible public health advice.” 

This is the second time Gélinas has tabled this bill. She brought it forward for the first time in 2020.

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