Doug Ford rallies Ontario PCs behind him in west Ottawa

Ontario Progressive Conservatives were sending a message of unity ahead of this year's provincial election at a rally in the west Ottawa community of Nepean Monday night.

Event followed Ford's announcement of a tax break for people earning the minimum wage

PC Leader Doug Ford speaks during a rally in west Ottawa April 16, 2018. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Ontario Progressive Conservatives were sending a message of unity ahead of this year's provincial election at a rally in the west Ottawa community of Nepean Monday night.

Leader Doug Ford entered the hall at the Nepean Sportsplex to Eye of the Tiger.

In his stump speech, he underlined his pledge to fire the CEO of Hydro One and the campaign plank he'd unveiled earlier Monday to eliminate provincial income taxes for people on minimum wage, before shaking hands and taking pictures with the crowd. 

Ford's speech was occasionally interrupted by people shouting about his next promise, such as getting rid of the Green Energy Act, or slogans aimed at Premier Kathleen Wynne.

The crowd of at least 300 people included mostly party faithful, though some said they hadn't attended a political rally before and wanted to see the new leader for themselves.

"I chanced all the weather and everything to be here," said Stacey Gillis, a project administrator who lives in Packenham, Ont., and works in Ottawa.

Progressive Conservative supporter Stacey Gillis says she doesn't like when other parties promise 'free' programs and is glad Doug Ford is promising restraint. (CBC)

Gillis described herself as a traditional supporter of both the federal and provincial conservative parties who's excited by Ford's message.

"It'd be nice to have a change," she said. "A different direction, not a politician, just somebody who knows the people."

'Stronger for Ontario'

Glenn Jung, an electrician who lives in west Ottawa, said this was the first political rally he's attended, though he's voted PC in the past.

"I'm very tired of working as hard as I work to get little in return from the provincial government," Jung said.

Glenn Jung, an electrician based in Barrhaven, says he is glad Ford will be fighting to eliminate the carbon tax. (CBC)

One of Ford's most important promises, as far as he is concerned, is getting rid of carbon pricing and challenging the federal government on the imposition of the carbon tax.

Jung said the jobs of his friends who work in manufacturing are at risk because of the policy, which is supported by the federal and provincial Liberals.

"I think we have someone who is going to be stronger for Ontario in our corner now," Jung said.

United front

Brian Gallagher came to the rally from Mississippi Mills, west of Ottawa, and said he is watching to see if Ford can bring the party together after Patrick Brown's dramatic fall from the leadership and failed run to reclaim the job.

"I think [Ford's] bringing something new. I think he has some experience from Toronto that'll come forward with him," Gallagher said. "The party seemed to be kind of messed up and I'm just hoping Doug can pull it out of the fire."

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford shakes hands with a supporter after a rally in the riding of Ottawa West-Nepean. (CBC)

Local MPP Lisa Macleod showcased party unity with former local MPPs, sitting politicians such as Conservative MP Lisa Raitt and Ottawa Coun. Jan Harder, and several Ottawa PC candidates.

Among the recognized guests were former Conservative Senate leader Marjorie LeBreton and former Ottawa mayor Larry O'Brien.

"There was genuine enthusiasm and that's what you need to run a political campaign the size of the one Doug is running in Ontario," O'Brien said.

The campaign has all but officially begun, and voting day expected to be June 7.

Larry O'Brien, the former mayor of Ottawa, says Ford's experience as a municipal politician will serve him well at Queen's Park. (CBC)