Politics

Ford presses 'critical' need for national unity in meeting with Trudeau

Ontario Premier Doug Ford made an economic pitch for national unity today during a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

'It's absolutely critical we unite the country,' Ontario premier warns after meeting with PM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Ontario Premier Doug Ford at his office in the West Block of Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford made an economic pitch for national unity today during a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

During a news conference following what he called a "phenomenal" meeting with Trudeau, Ford warned that deepening regional divisions are bad for business and the economy.

"We have to send a message around the world that yes, we're a big family and we may have a few bumps in the road, we may disagree, but we have to give businesses out there certainty. Because if you don't give businesses certainty, they'll leave," he said.

"They'll leave and invest in other areas and we want them to stay here. It's absolutely critical we unite the country and we stick together."

Ford told Trudeau the federal government needs to listen to the concerns of people in Saskatchewan and Alberta who are "hurting."

"We have to find common ground and support our friends out west," he told reporters. "We have to calm the temperature, lower the temperature and again, stick together as a country."

Watch: Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he had a 'phenomenal' meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was 'phenomenal'. Once part of the group of premiers dubbed the resistance, now he says the country needs to stick together. 1:30

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who has accused Trudeau of doing little to support his province's ailing energy sector, said today he'll meet with the prime minister in early December. He said he will be conveying the message that the Liberal government must deliver action, not just words, to heal wounds and address divisions in the region.

"We can never take national unity for granted and the message I've sent to Ottawa is that if we saw a similar level of frustration in Quebec, you wouldn't have federal policies damaging the aviation sector or damaging Quebec's hydro sector," he said.

"Why are they not more sensitive to the real human consequences of anti-energy policies and how it's affecting Alberta and Saskatchewan?"

Kenney said it's a "positive sign" that Trudeau appointed Chrystia Freeland — who was born in Alberta — as deputy prime minister and intergovernmental affairs minister. He said he spoke with her and the prime minister's new representative to the Prairies, Jim Carr, on Thursday.

As one of his first orders of business in his new portfolio, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan travelled to Alberta this week and met with provincial Energy Minister Sonya Savage today.

In a statement released after the meeting, he said the federal government shares the "common goal of ensuring our natural resources, including oil and gas in Alberta, are sustainably developed and continue to be sources of good, well-paying jobs."

O'Regan said his initial focus will be to listen and understand the challenges faced by the energy industry, and the impact they're having on workers and their families.

"By working together, listening and taking concrete action, we can ensure the hardworking Canadians that have helped build this country know that their federal government has their backs, that their work is valued, and that they can take advantage of the economic opportunities that come with sustainably developing our resources and building a cleaner economy."

Trudeau, Ford take conciliatory tone

The Ford-Trudeau meeting came just weeks after a federal election campaign that saw the Liberals repeatedly invoke Ford's budgetary policies to scare Canadians away from voting for the federal Conservatives.

During the campaign, Trudeau claimed that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer would impose deep cuts that would harm Canadians, citing Ford's cuts in Ontario as an example.

Today, both leaders took a conciliatory tone and vowed to focus on shared priorities such as health care, job creation and infrastructure.

"We're obviously not going to agree on everything, but the things that we do agree on I look forward to working on respectfully, collaboratively, co-operatively in ways that (benefit) the people of Ontario and indeed people right across the country," Trudeau said.

Ford said the two leaders will focus on areas where they agree, not the ones where they have differences, such as the federal carbon tax.

"I've always said a lot of the people who voted for the prime minister — not all, but a lot of them — voted for me. And people expect us to work together and we're going to roll up our sleeves and work together and make sure that we get Ontario moving," Ford said.

Ahead of today's meeting, Ford said Trudeau's remarks during the campaign are now in the past and that he harbours no hard feelings.

"It's never personal. Politics is politics and I have pretty thick skin," he said Thursday. "I understood what he was doing and I had a conversation with him. I told him, 'Politics are done, and let's roll up our sleeves and start working together.' And he agreed."

Yesterday, Ford announced the creation of a new Council on Provincial-Federal Relations, tasked with collaborating with federal counterparts on priorities such as infrastructure, health care and economic growth.

Today's meeting is another in a series of outreach efforts by Trudeau since the Liberals won a minority government Oct. 21. Trudeau also has met with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and P.E.I. Premier Dennis King since the election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Ontario Premier Doug Ford today. The two men have not agreed on much, and Trudeau named Ford in lines of attack many times during the election campaign. But the two men will try to find areas of common ground today. 2:40

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