A group of volunteer scientists who have provided independent and often direct advice throughout the COVID-19 pandemic will now be placed under the control of an independent government agency.
Public Health Ontario announced that it is assuming “operation and oversight” of the Ontario Science Advisory Table, which was formerly hosted by the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
It says the move, which will take effect on April 4, “will create a permanent seat for the table, which will help strengthen its provincial resources and allow it to maintain its strong ties with the wider university community.”
“PHO is delighted to host the Scientific Advisory Table,” said PHO Vice President and Scientific Table Member Dr. Brian Schwartz in a press release. “We look forward to continuing to support the table by providing credible, independent scientific and technical advice to inform the Government of Ontario as we move towards recovery from COVID-19 and to help prepare for and respond. to future public health emergencies.
The 35-member Science Advisory Table was formed in July 2020 and has consistently provided the Ford government with advice on its handling of the pandemic, as well as modeling.
The table has also produced reports on a myriad of pandemic-related issues, ranging from vaccine strategies to how to use rapid antigen tests more effectively.
The decision to fold the table at Public Health Ontario comes just days after outgoing Scientific Director Dr. Peter Juni told CP24 that Ontario is in the midst of a sixth wave that is largely the result of the fact that the province “flipped caution,” especially with the lifting of its mask mandate.
“You can call it whatever you want, you know; whether it’s a resurgence of the Omicron wave that we had or a sixth wave, it’s really about understanding that this is not a BA wave.2,” said declared June on Tuesday evening.
According to the press release, the scientific table will continue to be composed of “independent, voluntary and non-partisan experts”.
However, in a statement, NDP health critic France Gélinas accused the Ford government of undermining the independence of the table.
“The Science Advisory Table has been instrumental in giving Ontarians a clear picture of where we are in the pandemic, free from government rhetoric or political influence. Ontarians trust the Science Table to tell us all about the forecast and what the province needs to do to avoid the worst,” she said. “Doug Ford’s choice to weaken and undermine the independence of the Science Table has people worried, for good reason.”