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Ontario cabinet ministers deny Premier Ford is laying low until after federal election

During Monday night's English language Federal Leaders' Debate, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer told Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau that there was a vacancy for an Ontario Liberal leadership position after Trudeau had repeatedly brought up Ontario Premier Doug Ford on both the campaign trail and throughout the debate.

Senior Progressive Conservative ministers of the Ontario government rallied around Premier Doug Ford Wednesday ahead of a cabinet meeting at Queen’s Park.

The ministers refuted claims Ford is laying low until the federal election campaign is over and insisted he remains accessible.

“Look, he’s working every day to govern the province of Ontario. We have, obviously, a cabinet meeting today so he’ll be at a cabinet meeting,” said Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton.

Ford, however, has not been accessible to media for the past three cabinet meetings. His last media availability was nearly a month ago in North Bay.

READ MORE: Doug Ford factor looms large in election as Liberals seize on premier’s tanking popularity

Economic Development and Trade Minister Vic Fedeli laughed off claims Ford is intentionally avoiding press until the federal election is over.

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“I can tell you I have met with him today, I spoke to him yesterday, [and] talked to him on Friday,” he said.

During Monday night’s English leaders debate, Justin Trudeau attacked Ford’s environmental policies, alleging the premier is not doing enough to stop climate change. The tactic of tying Ford to Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is one Trudeau has used repeatedly throughout the campaign.

READ MORE: Amid the threat of province-wide school closures, where is Premier Doug Ford?

Near the end of the debate when Trudeau once again brought up Ford, Scheer shot back, “You seem to be oddly obsessed with provincial politics. There is a vacancy for the Ontario Liberal leadership and if you’re so focused on provincial politics, go and run for the leadership of that party Mr. Trudeau.”

Tourism Minister Lisa MacLeod said Thursday about the perceived distance Scheer is putting between him and Ford, “l don’t know who is scripting Andrew Scheer, so Andrew Scheer can do what Andrew Scheer does but he’s got my vote in this election.” 

READ MORE: List of cuts, program changes Doug Ford government has reversed

Steve Clark, minister of municipal affairs, answered few questions as staffers rushed him into the executive council chamber.

“The premier has been very open and accessible and I’m sure you’ll see him today,” Clark said.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said, “I understand that there is an election but that’s not my focus.”

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