Ontario's Premier seems to have fanned the flames of a debate between renters and landlords on whether or not tenants should have to pay rent on April 1.
Doug Ford said at a news conference Thursday, 'if you have to choose between food and rent, get food.'
A group called 'Keep Your Rent' sprung up in Ottawa a few weeks ago. Organizer Sam Hersh says renters have to be careful with money right now.
"We don't know how long we're going to be in this crisis," he tells 1310 NEWS' The Rob Snow Show. "You can maybe be able to pay for rent this month, or next month, but who knows how long this will be going for."
But CEO of Real Property Association of Canada Michael Brooks, who represents landlords, says this movement is dangerous.
"[Hersh] is calling for an absolute rent strike until [COVID-19] containment. That would be devastating for our national economy. And I think for those in that group that are free-riders, it's incredibly selfish."
"It'll put every landlord into financial difficulty immediately. It'll back up into the banks. It'll back up into employees of companies or individuals," explains Brooks. "It might mean that people who have a duplex or triplex will lose their homes if they default on their mortgage and they can't get a deferral."
Brooks does, however, support a rent freeze for the time being.
"The critical feature here is to make sure we're giving rent relief to those who really need it, and we're not letting free-riders take advantage of this crisis."
Keep Your Rent is operating in other major Canadian centres like Toronto and Montreal, and has gained about 1,000 followers in Ottawa.
Meanwhile, NDP leader Andrea Horwath is calling on the Ontario government to help tenants who can't pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Horwath says in a statement that her party wants Premier Ford to provide direct financial support to households so they can make rent and make it illegal to evict a tenant during the public health crisis.
There is currently an effective ban on evictions in Ontario as the Landlord and Tenant Board has suspended all hearings for the duration of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
With files from The Canadian Press