A group of volunteer scientists, who have provided independent and often blunt advice during the COVID-19 pandemic, will now be placed under the control of an arms-long government agency.
Public Health Ontario has announced that it is considering the “operation and oversight” of the Ontario Science Advisory Table, previously hosted by the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
It says the move, which will take effect from April 4, “will create a permanent home for the table that will help bolster its provincial resources and ensure it can continue its strong ties with the wider academic community.” “
“PHO is excited to welcome the Science Advisory Table,” said Dr. Brian Schwartz, PHO’s vice president and member of the Science Table, in a news release. “We look forward to continuing to support Table in providing reliable and independent scientific and technical advice to inform the Government of Ontario as we transition towards recovery from COVID-19 and for future public health emergencies.” Let us help prepare and respond.”
The 35-member science advisory table was formed in July 2020 and has consistently advised the Ford government on its handling of the pandemic as well as modeling.
The table has also produced reports on issues related to the pandemic, from vaccine strategies to how to most effectively use rapid antigen tests.
The decision to turn the tables at Public Health Ontario Scientific Director Dr. Peter Juni told CP24 that Ontario is in the midst of a sixth wave, largely the result of the province “throwing caution to the wind”. With the lifting of its mask mandate.
“You can call it whatever you want, you know; whether it’s the resurgence of the Omicron wave that we have or the sixth wave, the point is to understand that it’s not a BA.2 wave,” Juni said Tuesday night.
According to the release, the science table will consist of “independent, volunteer and non-partisan experts”.
However, in a statement, NDP health critic France Gelinas accused the Ford government of curtailing the independence of the tables.
“The science advisory table has been instrumental in giving Ontarians a clear picture of where we are in the pandemic without government rhetoric or political spin. The people of Ontario put their faith in the science table to tell us all about the forecast, and what the province needs to do to avoid a worst-case scenario,” she said. “Doug Ford’s choice to try and undermine the independence of the Science Table has people worried, for good reason.”