June 8, 2018 10:52 am
Updated: June 8, 2018 7:50 pm

Ontario Premier-designate Doug Ford takes office on June 29

Newly elected Ontario Premier-designate Doug Ford said the toughest challenge he is expected to face during his transition period into Queen's Park will be compiling a cabinet to form his government.

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TORONTO – Doug Ford said Friday he’s working with Ontario’s outgoing Liberals to ensure a smooth transition to power – a process he said would take three weeks, involve the help of those who’ve worked at the federal level and see the formation of a strong Progressive Conservative cabinet.

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The premier-designate, who secured a majority a day earlier with a slew of populist promises, said his first order of business would be to scrutinize the province’s books.

“We have to see the financial situation that’s been left behind, and over the next couple days and weeks you’re going to hear from us, but the most important thing is getting our fiscal house in order,” Ford said.

“We’ll be out looking for an auditing firm to go into the province to go line item by line item. I always believe in third party validation.”

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Once the audit is complete, Ford said he planned to address many of the promises he made during the election campaign, including lowering taxes, cutting hydro rates, and eliminating the cap-and-trade system.

“After a hard-fought campaign, we know the hard work has just begun,” he said. “But we intend to act fast. We will have much more to share with the people of Ontario in the coming days and weeks.”

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Ford’s transition team, which will help him segue into power over 21 days, includes former Conservative MP John Baird, a past chief of staff in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government, and an executive at the Ford family business.

“We have already hit the ground running,” Ford said. “We have begun work right away on setting up the premier’s office, establishing a cabinet and implementing the machinery of a new government.”

READ MORE: PCs win Ontario election — here’s a look at the promises Doug Ford made

Ontario’s lieutenant-governor met with Ford on Friday afternoon, inviting him to form government.

The Tories secured 76 ridings, the NDP got 40 and the Liberals were reduced to seven seats. Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner captured the party’s first-ever seat in Ontario.

The NDP’s position as the Official Opposition marks a turnaround for the party consistently stuck in third place since Bob Rae’s New Democratic government was defeated in 1995. Party leader Andrea Horwath said Friday that Ontarians have chosen her New Democrats to keep Ford accountable.

VIDEO: York U students the only victims of strike, Ford says

“Our ideas are quite different and Mr. Ford’s plan to cut all those taxes for the richest people in Ontario is going to put a big hole in our finances here in this province,” she said. “I’m hopeful that Mr. Ford understands that we need revenues in our province to pay for the kinds of things that people expect a government to provide.”

Ford was frequently accused during the election campaign of failing to be transparent by dodging calls to release a fully costed platform. The party eventually published a list of promises and their price tags, but didn’t indicate how they would pay for them, what size of deficits they would run or for exactly how long.

The premier-designate said Friday that he planned to live up to his promises, including to repeal the Liberals’ updated sex-ed curriculum.

VIDEO: Andrea Horwath asked if she shares any common ground with Doug Ford

“What we say we’re going to do, we’re going to do. We aren’t going to flip-flop,” he said. “We want to make sure over the next four years that our mandate gets fulfilled based on the people voting us in.”

He declined, however, to discuss specifics when asked about the timing of that, as well as when and how he would scrap the Liberals’ cap-and-trade program, or if he will introduce back-to-work legislation to end a months-long strike at York University in Toronto.

Ford also emphasized ties with the federal government Friday, saying he had spoken with Justin Trudeau and told the prime minister he stood with him in a trade dispute with the United States.

READ MORE: Canadian government pushing back against Trump’s proposal for separate trade deals

Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump have exchanged tough words after the U.S. imposed hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and Europe. Canada has countered with a plan to impose tariffs of its own on U.S. metals and other consumer goods.

Ford was asked what he thinks of how Trump is handling trade issues.

“I talked to the prime minister yesterday,” he said. “I said we’ll stand united against our neighbours to the south and I’m very sincere when I say that. United we stand as a country and I’ll work hand in hand with the prime minister.”

Meanwhile, Ford would not say if he will lower the legislature’s threshold for official party status to accommodate the Liberals, who were decimated at the polls. The bar is currently eight seats.

Premier Kathleen Wynne, who resigned as Liberal leader after her party’s defeat, told reporters Friday that she will work closely with Ford’s team to ensure a smooth transition.

“Obviously it was a hard night for us,” she said of the Liberal loss. “I feel very proud of the work that all of our candidates did across the province.”

Choking back tears, Wynne said the true joy of the premier’s job is breaking free of the “jaded view” some have in politics and seeing first-hand how people are working to make the world better.

Wynne, Ontario’s first female premier, said she would “absolutely” recommend the job to little girls, despite the difficulties of the role.

“It’s certainly one of the best jobs in this country,” she said. “I have been able to work with so many amazing people. I tried to talk about those people last night, people across this province who are doing amazing things.”

VIDEO: Doug Ford connected with millions of people in Ontario, Wynne says

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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