HOT 100 – Political rallies are generally reserved for election campaigns (supportive ones, that is; protest rallies are always de rigueur), but Premier Doug Ford evidently plans to keep them happening. Just a couple of weeks after presiding over his massive Ford Fest gathering, he was again preaching to a large crowd of the faithful this week, marking his first 100 days in office with hundreds of cheering supporters at an Etobicoke banquet hall. His boast of having shown “the insiders and elites what governing for the people looks like” was naturally met with a thunderous ovation, as did his recital of accomplishments to date, including scrapping cap-and-trade, getting rid of the Hydro One board of directors, and “buck-a-beer” (still a big favourite, based on the whoops from the audience). Interestingly, Ford devoted a good chunk of his speech to attacking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the new trade agreement with the U.S. Although initially mildly supportive, Ford is now full-on against, decrying, “The Trudeau Liberals left out Ontario farmers as well as steel and aluminum workers … They used Ontario jobs as a bargaining chip [and then] went on a victory lap.” Playing even more to rural Ontario – a bastion of Ford support – he added, “My message to farmers? Justin may have forgotten about you but we will never, ever forget about you.” This Ottawa-aimed messaging (see also For The Record, below) has spurred speculation Ford has aspirations to expand his empire nation-wide, especially if current federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer falters in next year’s election.
WATCHED POT – Speaking of the Trudeau Liberals, next week will provide a watershed moment for them, when cannabis becomes legal across the country. Not keen to jump on the bandwagon, but recognizing that the move is quite popular, Ford’s Tories are treading carefully around the issue. Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, in a speech to the Empire Club this week, reiterated Ontario’s plan to make cannabis available online next week, en route to private retail sales next spring. She emphasized, repeatedly, that legalization is a federal initiative, and suggested Ontario is not all that thrilled with it, frowning that “the serious health and social effects associated with consuming recreational cannabis will not magically disappear on October 17.” She announced that a public awareness campaign will launch next week to coincide with retail sales of cannabis, aimed at familiarizing the public – particularly young people – with the new rules and protocols. In keeping with the grudgingly-going-along-with-it approach, the ad campaign will also focus on the health risks associated with cannabis consumption.
MAD DOCTORS – When Ford’s Tories were elected in June, many Ontario doctors – who loathed the previous Liberal government – hailed the incoming regime as saviours in their long-standing contract dispute. Well, maybe not. Mediated negotiations have broken down again, triggering an arbitration process later this month. While arbitration will ultimately resolve the impasse, it may not assuage the ill will that is still very much apparent. An unnamed senior government official, quoted by the Toronto Star, sounded exasperated that the two sides were still millions of dollars apart despite the government sweetening the offer. “We offered the keys to the car to drive change and the doctors are not taking it,” the source reportedly said. This infuriated representatives from the Ontario Medical Association. Also quoted anonymously, an OMA official griped that the government had violated a media blackout by talking publicly, and took exception to the depiction of doctors having rejected a good deal. “As to the government’s claim that it offered the OMA the keys to the car to drive change, if any keys were offered they were to a 1971 Lada,” the OMA source fumed.
LIFE OF THE PARTY – The Ontario Liberals have taken a small step in their daunting journey to rebuild. Veteran political staffer Deb Roberts has been named as Interim Executive Director and Fundraising Lead for the party, until a new party leader is elected. Word is Roberts, who is best known for handling appointments when Dalton McGuinty was Premier, was the personal choice of Interim Leader John Fraser.
BIG BLUE – Chances are Roberts won’t be decorating her new office with the colour-coded electoral map produced by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. A tradition after every election, the 4’x3′ wall map is a vivid illustration of what happened – in this case showing an ocean of Tory blue with orange NDP patches in a handful of urban areas and a vast swath of the North. Unlike the previous version, the map of Ontario’s 42nd parliament has only a few Liberal pink zones – small clusters in Ottawa and east Toronto, with Thunder Bay as the only pink section between Highway 401 and the Manitoba border. Plus, for the first time there is the one green dot, marking the Green Party’s seat in Guelph.
IN THE HOUSE
The House did not sit this week. MPPs will be back at their desks on Monday for a three-week stint. It’s not clear yet whether Finance Minister Vic Fedeli’s fall economic statement will come in this stretch, or wait until after the next break in early November.
FOR THE RECORD
“I’m calling the Premier out. The public option is the only responsible one for Ontarians. I’ll debate him any time, anywhere. He can even stack the room with his army of Harperite lackeys, he’ll need all the help he can get.”
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, beating the war drums over the Ford government’s move toward private cannabis sales. The union representing 140,000 public sector workers released a poll showing most people believe a public outlet like the LCBO would do a better job of keeping marijuana away from kids and generate more revenue for the government.
“Today, Ontario families, workers and businesses have more money in their pockets, we’ve cleaned up a lot of the hydro mess, and we have sent a clear message to the world that Ontario is open for business. While there is a lot of work left to do, we’re off to a great start.”
Premier Ford, with his trademark swagger, in a news release with the equally brassy headline, “Promises Made, Promises Kept: Ontario’s Government for the People Marks 100 Days of Unprecedented Action.”
“We were able to keep Kathleen Wynne‘s hands out of your pockets. And now we are going to keep Justin Trudeau’s hands out of your pockets.”
Premier Ford, having vanquished the provincial Liberals, setting his sights on the federal version.