Ontario Liberals blast Haldimand-Norfolk’s appointment of chief medical officer who questions COVID-19 lockdowns

The Ontario Liberal Party is calling for the Ontario government to intervene in the recent appointment of Dr. Matt Strauss as acting medical officer of health in Haldimand-Norfolk.

In a statement released Friday evening, Liberal health critic John Fraser (Ottawa South) called on Minister of Health Christine Elliott to veto Strauss’s appointment due to his vocal opposition to some COVID-19 public health measures, including lockdowns.

Strauss was unanimously appointed to the position by the Haldimand-Norfolk Board of Health and is set to step into the role Sept. 14.

“We cannot have a medical officer of health who publicly opposed life-saving public health measures as we head into the fourth wave of COVID-19,” Fraser said.

“Should Minister Elliott approve this appointment, or allow Dr. Strauss to serve as interim medical officer of health during the fourth wave, it will mean Doug Ford’s government is blatantly pandering to the anti-science fringe.”

The appointment has been criticized by public health experts, including Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) president Anthony Dale, who tweeted: “How could the Haldimand and Norfolk Board of Health have possibly made this appointment?


A compilation of Strauss’s tweets gathered by the Ontario Liberal Party and shared with the Star included false claims about quarantine measures and showcased multiple instances where lockdowns were questioned. In one recent post, Strauss writes: “Live free or die.”

In a statement, Alexandra Hilkene, a spokesperson for Elliott, said the ministry is responsible for approving the appointment “of full-time medical officers of health, not acting medical officers of health, such as Dr. Strauss. The province did not have any say in this decision.”

Hilkene said the ministry has not yet received a request from the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit to approve Strauss to a full-time appointment.

“While the ministry will review any application received from the health unit, under no circumstances would we ever approve the appointment of a local medical officer of health who does not support the public health measures that have saved countless lives and protected our hospital capacity throughout the pandemic,” she wrote.

The Star has reached out to both the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit and Strauss for their comment on the criticism, but has not received a reply as of this article’s publication.

Among Strauss’s social media presence is a tweet falsely claiming that while pandemics are as “old as human civilization,” it wasn’t until 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic that humans “decided that ‘abolishing human contact,’ was the best way to deal with one.”

In fact, quarantine practices have been in evidence as early as the 14th Century and were used in the U.S. to combat yellow fever in 1878, according to information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In another Tweet posted in April, Strauss asks how one might apply for refugee status in Florida. “Asking for myself. I am serious,” the tweet reads. In another Florida-related tweet, Strauss labels Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a “hero.”

DeSantis has been roundly criticized for his management of the state’s out-of-control Delta variant cases, as well as his implementation an executive order banning mask mandates in public schools, which was recently found to exceed state authority.

Strauss, who refers to himself in his Twitter biography as a journalist as well as a critical care doctor, authored two separate articles published in U.K.-based magazine The Spectator questioning the use of ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients in the ICU.

In January, an op-ed co-authored by Strauss ran in the Toronto Sun with the headline “Here’s how curfews violate Charter rights,” which railed against Quebec’s use of curfews as a public health measure.

A column authored by Strauss questioning the effectiveness of lockdowns was published by the Star last November.

Meanwhile, a July 2020 Facebook video titled “The COVID Chronicles: A Conversation with Dr. Strauss,” Independent MPP Randy Hillier (Lanark-Kingston-Frontenac) shows the former Progressive Conservative member hosting a sit down with Strauss where they discuss the pandemic. Hillier has also taken a vocal stand against public health measures and was charged for his role in an illegal gathering in April.

In the video, Strauss notes that he hasn’t yet engaged with medical literature supporting the use of masks, and compares masking to Quebec’s 2017 niqab ban, which barred women who wear the niqab from doing so while seeking public services.

“One of the arguments that the people who ended up banning the niqab in Quebec had was ‘we want to see your face so that we can see who you are, so that we can communicate properly,’ ” said Strauss, who added that, while he doesn’t know “how many lives masks could save,” he also doesn’t know “how many they could cost,” if people cannot see each other’s faces.

The effectiveness of masks in curbing the spread of the virus is well documented.

Jenna Moon is a breaking news reporter for the Star and is based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @_jennamoon