By Chris Marchand
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford drew a crowd of party faithful and the just plain curious to The Centre’s atrium, April 9.
The controversial former Toronto city councillor, who recently edged out Christine Elliott in race for the party’s leadership, joined Kenora/Rainy River candidate Greg Rickford for a tour of the riding with plenty of opportunities to lay out his populist agenda for weary, economically-battered Northern voters.
Ford’s 20-minute address focused on accountability to taxpayers, something he says has been missing during the Ontario Liberals 15-year term in office. He wasted little time laying the challenges faced by everyday Ontarians at the feet of his rival Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“People are frustrated. We’ve seen this province, under the Kathleen Wynne Liberals, lose 300,000 manufacturing jobs,” said Ford. “I believe in bringing some accountability, integrity and transparency back to the taxpayers — for 15 years we haven’t seen any accountability for your hard-earned tax dollars. We’ve set a world record in Ontario thanks to Kathleen Wynne. We have the largest sub-national debt in the entire world ($308 billion). We have to turn this province around and make this the most prosperous region to do business anywhere in North America.”
Ford touched a nerve when discussing Hydro rates and railing against Hydro One executives who continue to raise their salaries while many Hydro customers are making a choice between electricity or groceries.
“We have the highest hydro rates in North America, the highest rates for companies — that’s just unsustainable,” said Ford. “We’re three-times the cost of other regions in North America and we’re supposed to compete? The (Hydro One) CEO makes $4.5 million a year and guess what? While everyone’s struggling he decided to give himself a $1.7 million raise. There’s zero accountability. You don’t hear Kathleen Wynne go after these people. It’s about time we start respecting the taxpayers.”
Ford touched on health care, promising to consult more with doctors and nurses and address an inflated bureaucracy that is steering the direction of health care, as he would argue, in the wrong direction.
“I hear a lot from people that they have to go to Thunder Bay, or to Winnipeg — even for an MRI,” said Ford. “That’s going to change. Help is on its way, resources are on its way, but most importantly we’re going start listening to the experts.”
Ford applied his ‘bottom-up’ approach to education as well, where he says teachers are telling him that their voices are falling on deaf ears while over half of the province’s Grade 6 students are falling below provincial math standards. He adds he would revise the province’s elementary school sex-ed curriculum away from ‘Liberal indoctrination’.
The carbon-tax was another well-defined target, with Ford promising not to take part in the federal initiative.