Ontario Premier Doug Ford defends recent disappearance from public life
'I've been all over the province every single day,' Ford says at 1st news conference in 3 weeks
Ontario Premier Doug Ford defended his recent absence from public life on Wednesday when he spoke to reporters at his first news conference in three weeks.
Ford, who commented on the launch of the province's new COVID-19 vaccine certificate system, said he has been busy talking to residents across Ontario.
"I've been all over the province every single day," Ford said. "I've been travelling from east, west, north, south, out speaking to the people, dealing with the pandemic."
The news conference, which was done in person at Queen's Park, marked only the second time that the premier has spoken to reporters since the end of July.
Ford took only a handful of media questions on Wednesday.
Premier Doug Ford did this news conference in person at Queen’s Park. He took questions from six reporters then left, with several of us still lined up in the hallway waiting our turn to ask. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/onpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#onpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/dZwHy13acP">pic.twitter.com/dZwHy13acP</a>—@CBCQueensPark
Ford has made few public appearances in the last two months and none with federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole during the election campaign.
"I didn't want to get involved in this federal election and we're doing our job," he said.
"We're making sure that we're fighting the fourth wave, making sure we're taking care of the people, making sure our hospital capacity is up to par, and helping people. There's not one day I stop. I go 24/7 around the clock and I'm going to continue doing it until we get this behind us."
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, however, said Ford was nowhere to be found when he was needed at Queen's Park during the fourth wave of the pandemic.
"Mr. Ford's stint in hiding was at a time when Ontarians needed him to be here showing leadership. Whether it was to help his federal counterpart, Mr. O'Toole, in his bid to become the prime minister, that's something that Doug Ford has to answer for," she said.
At the news conference, Ford called for patience as Ontario's vaccine certificate system went into effect. He asked residents to respect the new verification program and be patient with businesses as owners get used to the system.
Ford speaks to O'Toole, Blanchet and Trudeau
On Tuesday, Ford reportedly spoke to O'Toole to congratulate him on his campaign as well as to Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
In a scrum in Montreal, Blanchet told reporters in French that he spoke to Ford, calling it a warm and cordial conversation, and said he found Ford "quite nice." He said they hold the same positions on the need for more federal transfer payments for health care.
Ivana Yelich, Ford's spokesperson, said in a statement on Wednesday: "Mr. Blanchet, like all opposition leaders in a minority Parliament situation, has significant influence and will play a critical role in advancing important policy issues — particularly when it comes to pushing the federal government to respond to our ongoing calls to increase health care funding to the provinces."
Ford also said he is now willing to sign a deal with the re-elected Trudeau government for a child-care program in Ontario, something he was reluctant to do before the federal election.
The federal Liberals promised to spend $30 billion over the next five years to cut child-care costs to an average of $10 a day across the country.
With files from Mike Crawley and The Canadian Press