Sagging in the polls and fresh off a lusty booing at the Toronto Raptors victory parade, Premier Doug Ford visited Greater Sudbury on Wednesday and was greeted by a few dozen protesters as he arrived at Lopes Ltd. in Coniston.
It ain't easy being premier.
You can watch the complete press conference below.
Ford was in town to announce $1 million for the purchase of new equipment for Lopes, as well as a 12,000-square-foot expansion, adding 20 new jobs in the process.
“We always said that we're here to create jobs,” he said, with the two stacks on the property serving as an impressive background. “I said I wasn't going to forget the North (and I'm) keeping my promise. We're doing great things in the Sault, great things here in Sudbury, great things right across the North. You have great representatives, from (Finance Minister) Vic Fedeli and the rest of the team that represents the North. So we're here with a real positive message.”
The premier then opened the floor to questions from local media, and while he made a quip about how much he loves Postmedia, he answered all questions. He confirmed the province plans to move ahead with four-laning Highway 69 using the $169 million from the federal government announced last month.
“Well, we're going to move forward with that,” Ford said. “We're excited. We're just trying to negotiate with First Nations right now to buy up the the property — that's taking a little longer than expected.
“But we've committed that we're going to expand the highway and make it four lanes, make it safer for people. It's another commitment that we made, another commitment that we're fulfilling for the North.”
He took credit for the strong economy in the North – Sudbury's jobless rate of 5.4 per cent is the lowest in years – and urged voters in the North to stop voting NDP.
“Give the PC government a chance,” he said. “They've been voting NDP since Moses. They don't have a voice at the table, to be very frank. The NDP does not have a voice. I'm coming up here as the premier to support the people of Sudbury and I'll come up numerous (more) times.
“The economy is booming for one reason – because of our policies, reducing taxes making sure we cut the red tape and regulation.”
Ford said too many regulations are holding back the mining industry, and they're committed to reducing those by 25 per cent to spur investment.
“When companies grow and thrive, the people that work there grow and thrive, thrive and prosper, and that's what our government is all about, telling the world Ontario's open for jobs, open for business.”
He poked fun at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who had his own cringeworthy moments at the Raptors parade — over Trudeau's response to questions when he announced plans to ban single-use plastics.
“I had a laugh when I heard the prime minister try to answer the question — what was it, a week ago? Two weeks ago? (He was asked) what are your kids using? Well, he couldn't figure it out.”
When asked about health care workers losing jobs, Ford said the cuts are to administrative, not frontline staff, and he promised during the campaign, and pointed to the PET Scanner being installed at HSN as evidence of his government's commitment to the health of Northerners.
He put the blame for protests over funding for autism programs on the previous Liberal government, who, he said, didn't properly fund the system.
“The previous government put $256 million in autism, and it was the first two weeks I was in office they came rushing to me, saying it is bankrupt,” Ford said. “I put a $100 million in, and then on top of that — I felt that wasn't enough — we're putting in well over $600 million into the autism file.
“We're putting more money into families with children with autism than any jurisdiction in North America, bar none. Bar none.”
After vising Coniston, the premier was scheduled to attend a meet and greet with supporters in the city, although the location hasn't been released by the premier's office, likely in hopes of discouraging protesters.