Premier Doug Ford has tried to advance his vision for a prosperous Ontario amid a barrage of criticism from his opponents in the leaders’ first (and only) leaders’ debate on provincial issues in the Ontario elections.
Progressive Conservative Party Doug Ford defended his record against leaders Andrea Horwath (NDP), Stephen Del Duca (Liberal) and Mike Schreiner (Green). Four years after repeatedly attacking Prime Minister Kathleen Wynne during the debate, it was Doug Ford, who is currently number one in the polls, who had to answer the complaints of his opponents. The scenario was reversed, but some attacks remained unchanged.
Doug Ford insisted on loops of his file of papers atop the podium, that his opponents would “raise your taxes.” He suggested that the Liberal Party’s 15 years in power before the 2018 election meant that Ontario’s economy had “declined faster than the Canadian sledge team” and that the long-term care it inherited was in poor shape.
Staff in TVO’s public network control room, where the discussion was taking place, made sure to cut off the candidates’ microphones when their speaking time was up, and the exchanges became conflicting at times. “Doug Ford is working with his friends,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath. We heard from Liberal Stephen Del Duca, “Doug Ford rehearsing the 2018 script.”
The 2018 elections shaped the controversy, but not so much as the prime minister’s handling of the pandemic, a topic that until then had not been a major campaign topic. The prime minister called for a $3 an hour wage increase for regulators, the possible opening of Brampton’s medical school and the construction of hospitals.
But his opponents preferred to make the past two years a test of the prime minister’s valor and leadership. “Have you talked to a nurse recently?” Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, who has emerged with his questions to the other candidates, asked about how overworked they are and their low wages. Andrea Horwath argued that under the Ford government, “heroes were treated like dust.”
Instead, Doug Ford sought a little sympathy from Ontarians. “Was everything perfect? No,” he admitted. “For two years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I worked on this file,” the chef continued, considering that it was easy for his rival Stephen Del Duca to criticize him from the “side rows.” The liberal replied, “This is the job I wanted to get, now you have to accept your responsibility.”
It wasn’t Stephen Del Duca who held the position of opposition leader at Queen’s Park for the past four years, but it was as during the debate that New Democrat Andrea Horwath found herself erased from the exchanges, searching for his words. The Liberal Leader attacked the Liberal Leader, asking if he had “goed for coffee”, when the Liberal Caucus of which he was a part until 2018 made controversial decisions.
The Division Highway
Doug Ford was more comfortable dealing with the major highway projects lining the pages of his pre-election budget. His party’s main project, Highway 413 in the Toronto suburbs, will not see the light of day under liberal, neo-democratic and green governments. But Doug Ford ensures that people everywhere in the suburbs want to build the hub of the road.
“Ontarians don’t need highways that lead to castles,” said Andrea Horwath, whose party supports the abolition of exclusionary zoning in Ontario, a measure that could free up the development of large areas in the province’s municipalities. Stephen Del Duca, who plans to invest the equivalent of the project’s estimated costs, or $10 billion, in education, said the highway project “doesn’t make sense.”
Particularly by using electric cars on these new roads, Doug Ford has confirmed his desire to fight climate change. Doug Ford notes that recent investments in auto assembly lines in the county’s southwest, where governors want to steal seats from the NDP, “will change people’s lives.”
When it came time to decide on action to combat hate, 48 hours after an attack that killed 10 people just two hours from Toronto, Doug Ford mysteriously answered a question from moderator Althea Raj, of the Toronto Star. “Leadership is important,” he said.
The three opposition parties plan to pass an anti-Islamophobia bill, the London Family Solidarity Act 2022, if elected. When asked directly during the debate, Mike Schreiner did not answer if the outgoing prime minister would also support the project when Parliament resumes sitting in Toronto. Earlier today, a Progressive Conservative Party spokeswoman shared the same information in an email to He should.
This story is supported by the Local Press Initiative, with funding from the Government of Canada.
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