Premier Doug Ford rallies base in Trump-style speech at Ford Fest 2019
Instead of “Make America Great Again” hats and shirts, wardrobe was plastered with “Ford Nation” and “For the People.” Boos from the crowd for American press were replaced with boos for Ontario media. Instead of talking points about Wall Street elites, the talk was of downtown elites, and instead of chatter about the latest high-level White House departure, there was chatter about the latest resignation at Queen’s Park.
The annual barbecue known as Ford Fest was held at the Markham Fairgrounds Saturday evening and this year’s event had a dash of Trump-style flare.
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In spite of dwindling public approval ratings and negative headlines about the behaviour of his now-former chief of staff Dean French, and just days after a massive cabinet shuffle that saw his finance minister Vic Fedeli demoted, Premier Doug Ford took to the stage to declare that “Ontario is back on the right track.”
Ford also repeated a familiar talking point heard over the past few days: “We have accomplished more in 12 short months than most governments do in their mandate.”
The premier’s message, of course, resonated with the crowd of base supporters in attendance. Organizers say they estimate 10,000 were gathered.
But just outside the gates and in the air was another message, one from Ontarians who disapprove of Ford’s policies.
As the premier was scheduled to take the stage, a plane with a banner attached that read “Public Education Cannot Afford Ford” flew across the sky. Ford delivered his speech later than originally scheduled and dodged the bad photo op, and most in the crowd did not appear to notice the plane.
On roads leading to the venue, there were protest signs regarding changes to the Ontario Autism Program that read “Hey Doug! You screwed up! Our kids are STILL waiting,” and parked near the entrance a union-sponsored mobile billboard read “Doug Ford’s Education Cuts Hurt Kids.”
Ford did not address any of the criticism he’s faced and told his supporters they are “the only ones who matter to us.”
“You are the only ones who we answer to, and that is the people of Ontario,” he said.
The premier also said his government’s plan has led to a booming economy.
“We have 190,000 more jobs today than we did one year ago. That’s 190,000 new paycheques, 190,000 new opportunities. We have so many new jobs in Ontario that businesses are having a hard time filling them right now.”
Despite repeated requests, Ford did not agree to a one-on-one interview with Global News Saturday at the event.
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