Despite adjourning the Ontario Legislature until a week after October’s federal election, Premier Doug Ford insists he won’t use the free time to campaign for federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference held to mark the first anniversary of his Progressive Conservative party’s provincial election win, Mr. Ford also denied the five-month hiatus announced this week was meant to allow Mr. Scheer to distance himself from the Premier, who has seen his popularity sag amid controversies over spending cuts.
“Right from the get-go I said I am not going to get involved in the federal election,” Mr. Ford said on Friday. “We’re going to continue working hard for the people of Ontario.”
By contrast, newly elected Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, a former federal cabinet minister, is expected to campaign for Mr. Scheer in Ontario, The Globe and Mail has reported. Some Conservative MPs say they have heard concerns about Mr. Ford at the door from voters.
On Friday, Mr. Ford summoned the news media to an event room at a hotel near Pearson Airport, giving a short speech about his government’s accomplishments, with his entire cabinet arrayed behind him, standing silently. He made a point of praising what he called his “all-star team” of ministers, calling it “the best cabinet this province has ever seen.” He said he would not speculate when asked about rumours of an imminent cabinet shuffle.
In his remarks, he cited recent numbers showing 190,000 jobs had been created since he took office. He also highlighted his government’s scrapping of its predecessors’ cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which has resulted in the federal government imposing a carbon tax on the province – a tax he has challenged in court , in taxpayer-funded advertisements and in mandatory gas-pump stickers.
Clearly sensitive to questions about the five-month break, Mr. Ford made a point of stressing that the legislature had just sat for 117 days, the longest session “in recent memory,” while also stressing that committees and cabinet meetings will continue.
“We have accomplished more in one year than most governments achieve in their whole mandate,” Mr. Ford said.
Asked about his top accomplishment, he said it was his government’s budget, with its “responsible path to balance,” which will see the province run a deficit until after the next election. He also cited his government’s move to cancel taxes for minimum-wage workers, and its tax rebate for child care, which advocates have decried as inadequate.
Mr. Ford did not mention the policy retreats he has made, including most recently, a climbdown on forcing municipalities to accept retroactive budget cuts for public health, ambulances and daycare that sparked a campaign against him led by Toronto Mayor John Tory.
At a news conference this week held to mark the same anniversary in a different way, Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Mr. Ford’s first year had delivered what she called “deep, deep cuts” to health care and education, while cancelling a tax increase for the wealthy.
Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said that Mr. Ford made numerous moves to liberalize the rules around alcohol, but took weeks to address protests by parents of autistic children at his government’s plan to change the funding model for treatment: “Doug Ford’s priorities are out of whack with Ontarians’ priorities."