As tensions increase between the federal and Ontario governments, Premier Doug Ford’s office says he won’t be meeting this week with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s point man on federal-provincial relations due to “scheduling constraints.”
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc is making his first trip to Queen’s Park since being named to his new role this summer. But Mr. LeBlanc’s office was told that Mr. Ford was not available to meet him on either Thursday or Friday, instead offering up the Premier’s parliamentary assistant.
“The latest information we have is that the schedule … doesn’t work for the Premier, but we’ll keep trying,” Mr. LeBlanc told The Globe and Mail. “I’ll make myself available, or make every effort I can, to be available quickly.”
When asked why Mr. Ford can’t meet, spokesman Simon Jefferies would only say no meeting has been scheduled.
“Premier Ford is not meeting with Minister LeBlanc this week,” Mr. Jefferies said, citing “scheduling constraints.” He did not respond to a follow-up request asking whether the Premier is in town or travelling. The Ontario legislature does not sit on Fridays, but Mr. LeBlanc said he plans on observing Question Period in the legislature on Thursday.
Mr. LeBlanc’s visit to Queen’s Park comes after weeks of tension between Ottawa and Ontario over the federal government’s new North American trade deal, as well as Mr. Trudeau’s pledge to impose a carbon tax on the provinces despite pushback from several premiers, including Mr. Ford. Mr. LeBlanc fired back at the Ford government this week after Mr. Ford’s repeated attacks on Mr. Trudeau during an Oct. 10 rally marking the Progressive Conservative government’s first 100 days in office.
Instead of sitting down with Mr. Ford, Mr. LeBlanc is scheduled to meet with Ontario Trade Minister Jim Wilson as well as Mr. Ford’s parliamentary assistant for intergovernmental affairs, Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller. Mr. LeBlanc said he plans on using the meetings to address interprovincial trade barriers and “reducing red tape,” a concern he said he shares with the Ford administration.
In an interview with the Toronto Star published on Sunday, Mr. LeBlanc fired back at Mr. Ford for his criticisms of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), after the Premier accused Mr. Trudeau of using Ontario jobs as “bargaining chips” and failing to give “honest answers” to farmers and steelworkers about the trade talks.
Mr. LeBlanc said Mr. Ford supported the Trudeau government both privately and publicly during the talks, and “was briefed in Washington in considerable detail, about some of the modest changes that were proposed for the supply management sector.”
Mr. Wilson told reporters on Monday that his government still has concerns about the USMCA deal regarding compensation for dairy farmers, U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs and a new clause that could impact Canada’s ability to negotiate a free-trade deal with China. He called the deal “incomplete” and said his government wouldn’t have signed off on it, but added that he won’t engage in a war of words with Mr. LeBlanc.
“I’m not going to get into a tit for tat with the federal government and I’m going to be seeing Minister LeBlanc this week. So we’ll stay friends," Mr. Wilson said.