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Ontario premier’s apologizes after retracting restrictions

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford is apologizing for a failed attempt to ban playgrounds and allow police to stop and question people who were not in their homes

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford apologized Thursday for a failed attempt to ban playgrounds and allow police to stop and question people who were not in their homes — measures that created a backlash from police forces, health officials and the public.

The leader of Canada’s most populous province, in his first public appearance since announcing the restrictions, said his government had moved too fast with the measures.

“They left a lot of people angry and upset. I know we got it wrong. I know we made a mistake and for that I’m sorry and sincerely apologize,” said Ford, who appeared to choke back tears at one point.

But Ford said he won’t resign despite widespread calls for him to do so.

He also suggested his government will offer province-paid paid sick leave for COVID-19 patients, but announced no details. The lack of such a program has led to widespread complaints.

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The pandemic restrictions Ford’s government announced on April 16 immediately ran into opposition. Police departments insisted they wouldn’t use new powers to randomly stop pedestrians or motorists and doctors complained the rules focused on outdoor activities like playgrounds and golf rather than more dangerous indoor settings.

Restaurants, gyms and classrooms across the province already had been closed. Most nonessential workers are working from home.

On Saturday, Ford retracted the ban on playgrounds, though outdoor recreation activities such as golf remain forbidden in Ontario, the only jurisdiction in North America that now bans it.

Vaccinations have ramped up in Canada, but health experts say more-contagious variants and a failure to take the right measures against the virus has led to a third wave of infections in Ontario.

Ford himself is isolating after a staff member tested positive.

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