Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford was in Ottawa on Monday, where he defended his decision not to visit until more than a week after a massive storm hit the city and left thousands without power. But he spent most of his morning campaign stop there alongside the capital’s Highway 417, trumpeting his commitment to widen it.
All of the party leaders are making last-ditch appeals to voters as Thursday’s provincial election draws nearer. While published polls have suggested Mr. Ford has maintained a lead throughout the campaign, many observers have said they expect several ridings, including some where party leaders showed up Monday, to be close.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath started the day in downtown Toronto with the head of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, warning of Conservative cuts to health care and highlighting her party’s pledges to kill the PC government’s wage-cap bill for public-sector workers and hire 30,000 nurses.
Liberal Steven Del Duca also started his day at a park in the Toronto riding of Don Valley West, repeating his pledge to cancel the PC government’s proposed Highway 413, which would carve through the Greater Toronto Area’s protected Greenbelt, and instead spend the estimated $10-billion on repairing schools.
Speaking before the federal government’s announcement Monday of new gun-control measures, he also brought up his vow to ban handguns.
Green Leader Mike Schreiner started his day with stops in two central Toronto ridings, including University-Rosedale, where his candidate is Dianne Saxe, who was the province’s environmental commissioner before Mr. Ford scrapped the post. He then headed to Caledon, Angus and Barrie.
In Ottawa, reporters asked Mr. Ford why he didn’t tour areas affected by the May long weekend storm or visit sooner. He said he had been speaking with the chief executive officers of Hydro One and Hydro Ottawa “every single day,” as well as local companies, officials and MPPs.
“I was on the phone every single day making sure we got the resources here,” Mr. Ford said. “I’m not here to do a photo op, like maybe other politicians were. I was boots on the ground, making sure we have the resources in here.”
Most of his morning press conference, on a rooftop overlooking fast-flowing traffic on Highway 417, was spent touting his commitment to widen a stretch of that artery, saying his opponents oppose highways.
The project was originally planned under the previous Liberal government, but Mr. Del Duca has not committed to the idea. Mr. Ford appeared to allude to recent comments from Ottawa Centre Liberal candidate Katie Gibbs, who said recently the money would be better spent on transit.
“They’re so out of touch with the concerns of everyday families,” Mr. Ford said of the Liberals, at whom his remarks were mostly targeted. “They even want to revisit highway usage. That’s their own words, ‘revisit highway usage.’ ”
Of the NDP’s Ms. Horwath, he added: “Andrea Horwath would rather protest a highway than build one.”
At his appearance in Toronto, Mr. Del Duca noted Monday’s federal gun-control proposals, suggesting Mr. Ford might fight them in court accusing him of being ”in the pockets and up close with the gun lobby.”
Ms. Horwath, speaking just south of Queen’s Park near downtown Toronto’s major hospitals, said as one of its first moves, an NDP government would repeal the PCs’ Bill 124, which limits annual wage increases for public-sector workers to 1 per cent for three years.
But she also took aim at Mr. Del Duca, arguing that voters should not trust the Liberals to fix health care, as she said the system’s problems worsened during their 15 years in power.
“So how can you trust the very people that broke our health care system to be the ones to fix it?” she said. “I think Ontarians understand that very, very clearly.”
Later Monday, Mr. Ford appeared at an event in Tecumseh, near Windsor, in a region where the PCs hope to pick up NDP seats in close fights as they capitalize on recent announcements of large government subsidies for the auto sector.
The PC Leader batted away questions about reports that a lack of power capacity had cost the region a massive battery-component plant, saying the government was building new power lines to the area. Earlier, Mr. Del Duca said Mr. Ford had failed to address the issue of power capacity sooner, noting the PC leader tore up green energy contracts after he was elected.
Ms. Horwath had events later Monday in Peterborough and Ottawa, while Mr. Del Duca headed to Kitchener and Cambridge.
Elections Ontario said Monday that more than one million people in the province voted in advance polls ahead of the June 2 vote, 9.92 per cent of the eligible electorate. While the figure is higher than in 2018, this time advance polls were open for 10 days compared to five days in the last election.
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