The NDP is calling into question Premier Doug Ford’s attendance record at Queen’s Park.
In a news conference Friday, NDP MPP Catherine Fife told reporters that since Dec. 1, the premier has missed 11 out of 18 question periods.
“Instead of showing up and defending his government’s policies, he has been a no-show more than half the time,” said Fife.
The NDP alleges that the Ron Taverner controversy is the reason why the premier has been absent so often.
WATCH (Aired March 6, 2019): Ron Taverner withdraws from consideration for OPP commissioner
“Since the OPP meddling scandal began, Doug Ford has been absent for 61 per cent of question periods. He’s ducking questions about his interference in the process to appoint the next OPP commissioner, and that’s why he has been hiding out so much since the start of the new session,” said Fife.
The premier was absent for question period on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week after the news of former OPP deputy commissioner Brad Blair’s firing broke. Ford was in the legislature, however, on Thursday and faced questions about the firing of Blair and changes to the Ontario Autism Program.
The premier’s office said Wednesday that Ford spent much of the week touring businesses like SodaStream and Sobeys.
“Every single day, Premier Doug Ford travels across this province meeting with real people and job creators,” said Simon Jeffries, a spokesperson for the premier, in a statement to Global News.
“This week, he attended the grand opening of SodaStream’s first and only Canadian manufacturing facility in Mississauga. He also met with farmers at the Chicken Farmers of Ontario AGM to discuss how the government can support our agricultural sector, and he opened Ontario’s pavilion at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada, where he heard from industry leaders who employ thousands of hard-working families in the mining sector.”
Jeffries added: “While the NDP believe that everything begins and ends in downtown Toronto, Premier Doug Ford knows you have to go out and hear from real Ontario families.”
Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser also questioned Ford’s attendance record.
“It’s obvious the premier is skipping question period because he doesn’t want to answer important questions about concerning changes to the Ontario Autism Program and interfering in police affairs,” Fraser told Global News. “He’s more focused on giving jobs to his friends than being accountable to Ontarians.”
Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner also weighed in.
“Why is the premier afraid to answer questions or be held accountable? The people of Ontario deserve better,” Schreiner told Global News. “They deserve a premier who will show up for work and answer the tough questions.”
Schreiner also said question period is the best opportunity to hold government accountable.
“It’s disappointing that the premier did not show up for this essential part of his job after the Taverner scandal broke,” he added.
WATCH: Global News coverage of the Ron Taverner controversy
According to the Executive Council Act, “every minister of the Crown is required to attend in the chamber during the period set aside for oral questions on at least two-thirds of the days on which the house holds routine proceedings.”
But attendance rules are not something the Speaker or the assembly are required to enforce — the premier is tasked with that duty.
Since Ford’s election, the Premier’s Office has not made public his daily itinerary. Distribution of a schedule has been standard practice with previous governments, however media outlets are often not notified of the events that Ford attends until they are publicized on government social media accounts.
News of Ford’s whereabouts also regularly appears on Ontario News Now, a video production operation of PC Caucus Services that is used to promote government messaging.
WATCH (Aired Jan. 30, 2019): Premier Doug Ford holds first official media availability of 2019
When reached for comment on the matter, Ford’s office told Global News: “The Premier’s Office informs the media of public events that are photo opportunities or where he will be taking questions from the media, and the premier regularly informs the public about his daily meetings through his social media feeds.”