By Lisa de Moraes
Toronto Public Health
Toronto Public Health Vice-Chair Elanor Manes on Friday issued a statement to clarify her intention in posting this item on the social media platform Twitter:
In context, what I wrote about the public health risks of persistently high levels of emissions from the coal-fired power plant in Belle River, Ontario, was a comment on the broader concerns of the city, surrounding communities and province over coal-fired power generation.
I have seen, and greatly appreciated, the positive response I received. I did not intend any particular response to a specific individual or organization.
I made public health a focus of my role.
I hope my actions will encourage the discussion that can lead to better protection for our health.
Toronto Public Health Vice-Chair Elanor Manes’s tongue-in-cheek blog post about the possible causes of so-called COVID-19 first drawing attention to her, and her ministry’s concerns, appeared Thursday morning on the public health agency’s Facebook page.
“Let me start with the good news, because I know I will always get grilled on that one,” Manes wrote of the job description that landed her atop a public health agency.
“I am Health Commissioner, with a staff of 1,800 people and a budget of about $60 million. This means that I am responsible for health in Toronto, which includes collaborating with the Ministry of Health to ensure that the city meets its health goals.”
The head of the health agency’s ten-member board and deputy chair, Dennis Wade, worked with Manes to post a blog item about the public health risks of the huge coal-fired power plant that powers Ford City, 35 kilometres south of Toronto.
Related topics raised in the piece included overblown “facts” about COVID-19, challenges on public health data analysis, and the question of whether the Environment Ministry has a mandate to take down the plant, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.
The Toronto Public Health statement said Environment Ministry officials were working “immediately” with the public health agency “to address the concerns raised in a public post from Elanor Manes as part of our dedicated effort to protect the health of Toronto’s residents and visitors.”
When contacted by the Washington Post, Wade said the MDCA board created the post in January, with the approval of the ministry, after getting a report about COVID-19 “contained within the federal government’s inspection report.”
The ministry, he said, provided an “instructive” report “which identified weaknesses on the part of the operator (Bellpower International) related to monitoring of emissions.”
Meanwhile, the ministry is “in the process of conducting an inspection” of the power plant, he said. It will include “further technical review, technical assessment, technical sampling and data analysis.”
Environment Ministry officials have declined requests for further comment on the issues raised by Manes.
Sun Media’s editor-in-chief, Wendy DiIorio, tweeted that she was “disappointed” by Manes’ “personal attack” on Postmedia News reporter Farah Mohamed, whose reporting on COVID-19 sparked calls to ban the power plant.
Manes’ comments were shared by more than 140,000 Facebook users in less than 24 hours, a number that grew to nearly 732,000 people in less than five hours.