Premier Doug Ford has released a statement, calling reports that one of the doctor’s serving on the Ontario COVID-19 advisory science table was paid by the elementary teacher’s union “deeply concerning.”
Dr. David Fisman, an epidemiologist with the University of Toronto, responded to the reports with a series of tweets in which he says his work with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) was “very much in the public domain and transparent” and “consistent with the scientific advice I’ve had the opportunity to offer.”
ETFO confirmed they had retained Dr. Fisman and other medical experts in the summer of 2020 as a part of a legal proceeding and he was compensated.
The union then says they have continued to consult with Dr. Fisman on the health and safety impacts of COVID-19 in schools, but he was not compensated for that guidance.
Dr. Fisman also shared two of the media releases in which he is quoted in by ETFO. In both, he is quoted as being against the reopening of schools.
— Elementary Educators (@ETFOeducators) January 27, 2021
The Ontario COVID-19 advisory table is a “group of scientific experts and health system leaders who evaluate and report on emerging evidence relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic to inform Ontario’s response,” according to the government’s website and is an voluntary, independent group.
The epidemiologist said when he was contacted by the media outlet regarding this story, he said he offered to resign from the COVID-19 advisory table “as to not be a distraction,” but his resignation was not accepted.
Dr. Fisman also added he offered to not be paid by ETFO in exchange for his consultation, but they “suggested to me that I was providing consulting that was valuable to them, on my free time, and it was appropriate for me to be paid.”
Premier Ford’s statement did not call for Dr. Fisman’s resignation, but said “this paid relationship raises legitimate concerns,” and they only found out through the media, not from Dr. Fisman.
“It is our expectation that all individuals act in good faith and disclose any actual or potential conflicts of interest,” read the statement.
ETFO said the provincial government was “certainly aware of the experts” they were working with and added Ford “should have known of Dr. Fisman’s work” with them.
Ford also reiterated the government’s return to school plan was safe and had been confirmed by a wide range of public health experts.