Ford creates council on provincial-federal relations amid tensions with Ottawa
Ontario Premier Doug Ford to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday
Ontario's Progressive Conservative government is creating a new council that will work with the federal government to "deliver on key priorities for the province."
Council members will include Premier Doug Ford and six of his top cabinet ministers, such as Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney and Minister of Finance Rod Phillips.
In a news release, the province said the council will focus on securing federal funding for major transit projects and health care initiatives. The announcement comes on the eve of a scheduled meeting between Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on Friday.
"My ministers and I will work to ensure the interests of the people of Ontario are top of mind when we meet with the new federal government," Ford said at a morning news conference.
"We also need them to speed up approvals for projects through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program so we can get shovels in the ground on infrastructure. Projects like bridges, transit, roads and broadband — projects that the people of Ontario are counting on," he continued.
'Politics is politics'
The move comes after a contentious federal election that saw Prime Minister Justin Trudeau frequently mention Ford by name in targeted attacks on conservative policy proposals. Trudeau would often allude to Ford and his tumultuous first year in government multiple times during campaign events.
The two have also butted heads over the roll out of the federal carbon levy, which Ford's government has said it will fight all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
But speaking to reporters, Ford downplayed the evident tension between he and the prime minister.
"It's never personal. Politics is politics and I have a pretty thick skin. And I understand what he was doing," Ford said.
"When I had a conversation with him, I told him that the politics are done and let's roll up our sleeves and start working together and he agreed."
Ford isn't alone among provincial leaders when it comes to his rocky history with Trudeau. The prime minister is in the early stages of trying to mend working relationships with conservative premiers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick.
All of Canada's premiers are set to meet in Toronto on Dec. 2.
Ministers on the new council would have learned of their federal counterparts yesterday, when Trudeau unveiled his new cabinet at a swearing-in ceremony on Parliament Hill.
Ford and his government are facing several big issues that will require federal co-operation to address. A host of proposed transit projects in Toronto, like the 15-kilometre Ontario Line, will need billions of federal dollars to get started.
During the election campaign, Trudeau's Liberals said they would fund the project.
"The people of Ontario expect the government to deliver on commitments they made," Ford said.
Meanwhile the province needs an influx of funding to relieve its overcrowded hospitals.
"No province can solve this problem on its own," Ford said.
Other members of the council include Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy, Infrastructure Minister Laurie Scott and Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli.