Ontario Premier Doug Ford weighed in on U.S. politics Friday, saying he was “disappointed” in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for ripping up President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech and suggesting left-leaning Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders is “scary.”
Mr. Ford travelled to Washington this week with a group of premiers to promote trade between Canada and the United States, and to celebrate the new North American trade deal, which needs formal ratification from only Canada. During a fireside chat with the Canadian American Business Council on Friday, the Premier said he “loved listening” to Mr. Trump’s recent State of the Union address, but targeted the top Democrat.
“I was disappointed when I saw Nancy Pelosi get up there and start tearing the speech up. That’s uncalled for. I think it’s a shame, it’s a real, real, real shame," Mr. Ford said.
Mr. Ford, who last year called himself a “big Republican," also appeared to endorse Mr. Trump’s re-election bid. “We hope the election is going to turn out the right way. Literally, the right way."
The Premier also took a shot at Mr. Sanders, the Vermont senator who is calling for a revolution led by a young, diverse and urban electorate as part of his pitch for the Democratic presidential nomination.
When asked about Mr. Sanders and socialism, Mr. Ford replied, “That’s actually scary.”
Asked to clarify the Premier’s remarks, Mr. Ford’s spokeswoman Ivana Yelich said, “Our hope is that whatever administration is elected is business-friendly and supports fair and free trade," adding that Mr. Sanders “is not pro business.”
Speaking to reporters following a meeting with the four premiers and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland praised Mr. Ford for his co-operation on trade and the coronavirus crisis. But she said she follows former Canadian ambassador David MacNaughton’s advice from 2016 about wading into U.S. politics.
“U.S. domestic politics are domestic ... That’s advice that I think is prudent for the federal government to stick to,” she said.
Mr. Ford is not the first Ontario premier to weigh in on a presidential race. Months before the 2016 U.S. election, former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne denounced Mr. Trump as divisive, a woman hater and blindly protectionist, warning his election as U.S. president would be dangerous for the world.
It was viewed as the harshest condemnation in decades by a senior Canadian politician on U.S. soil of an American presidential candidate in the midst of an election season.
Ontario NDP ethics critic Taras Natyshak on Friday accused Mr. Ford of “defending one of the most partisan and misleading” State of the Union speeches.
Mr. Natyshak said schools and public health units in Ontario were laying off staff and advised the Premier to “get back to Ontario and focus on schools and health.”
During Canada’s 2018 election campaign, Mr. Ford said in a radio interview he did not give “two hoots” about Mr. Trump and was focused on Ontario. But in interviews in 2016, before he came Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario leader, Mr. Ford said he would vote for Mr. Trump.
Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner on Friday condemned Mr. Ford’s support for the President. “It is wrong for the Premier to take sides in the U.S. election, especially on behalf of a misogynistic candidate who does not reflect Ontario’s values," Mr. Schreiner said.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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