Premier Doug Ford promised to balance Ontario’s budget, without providing specifics, while broadening his attack on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax at a gathering of Progressive Conservative party faithful on Friday.
Mr. Ford used his opening night speech at the Ontario PC party convention to tout his party’s economic plan after his government introduced its first fiscal update this week, when the Tories announced the provincial deficit had fallen by $500 million to $14.5 billion.
“The Liberals kept picking your pockets. Always finding new fees, finding new taxes. And even after introducing billions in new taxes, they left Ontario with a $15-billion dollar deficit,” Mr. Ford said to boos from hundreds of PC members who gathered for the first time since the June election. “We will balance that budget as sure as I’m standing here, because it’s the right thing to do.”
Still, Mr. Ford did not give a timeline for balancing the province’s books, despite the fact that the PCs promised during the election campaign that they would return to balance by the end of their mandate.
The Ontario Premier also broadened his attack against Mr. Trudeau and the federal carbon tax to include the Prime Minister’s “advisers.” Mr. Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, who worked at Queen’s Park for former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty until 2008, frequently targets Mr. Ford on social media for the Premier’s decision to pull out of the cap and trade program and for his lack of climate policy.
“We will fight the carbon tax right to the end. The Prime Minister, his ministers, his advisers, they want to impose a carbon tax that will jack up the price of everything, every good and every service,” Mr. Ford, whose government is challenging the tax in court, said. “I’m putting the Prime Minister on notice. We’ve already taken Kathleen Wynne’s hands out of your pockets. And Justin Trudeau ... you’re next,” he said, to the night’s loudest applause and cheers.
Mr. Ford also took pains to praise his finance minister, Vic Fedeli, who faces allegations in former PC leader Patrick Brown’s new book. Mr. Brown alleges Mr. Fedeli was the subject of an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations last year. Mr. Fedeli has called the claims false and malicious.
“Minister Vic Fedeli, one of the most honourable men I have ever worked with … told us how we are going to get Ontario back on track. We’re going to watch every single penny,” Mr. Ford said.
Although Mr. Ford’s speech was met with cheers and applause, the large convention centre room was not at capacity, and chatter filled the space during the speech.
Despite Mr. Ford’s assurances that the “Ontario PC Party has never been stronger,” the PCs are facing a bitter battle for party president at the gathering in Toronto this weekend, as members will also vote on measures to clean up nomination races and membership sales.
The party’s general meeting comes on the heels of Mr. Ford’s majority government election victory and after months of turmoil sparked by the forced resignation Mr. Brown amid sexual misconduct allegations. Mr. Brown, recently elected as mayor of Brampton, denies the accusations.