TORONTO – Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he will be bringing a collaborative message to a meeting Friday with Justin Trudeau, despite the frequent attacks the prime minister launched against him during the federal election campaign.
The meeting in Ottawa will be the latest in a series of in-person talks Trudeau is having with provincial leaders after receiving a minority mandate last month.
“Prime minister, we look forward to working with you,” Ford said at the legislature Thursday. “My ministers and I are ready to roll up our sleeves and work with your team to deliver results for the people of Ontario and the people of Canada.”
Trudeau frequently warned voters against Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer by trying to tie him to Ford, whose popularity has been sinking since he was elected with a majority last year.
Conservatives such as Ford make cuts – putting fewer teachers in classrooms to fund promises of buck-a-beer, Trudeau suggested during the campaign.
No harm, no foul, Ford said Thursday.
“Politics is politics and I have a pretty thick skin,” he said.
“I understand what he was doing. When I had a (phone) conversation with him I told him politics are done and let’s roll up our sleeves and start working together and he agreed.”
Ford listed his priorities for the meeting as health spending, infrastructure and job creation – noticeably absent was the carbon tax. Ford has been a vocal opponent of the tax and is pushing ahead with a court challenge of it, despite saying before the election that “the people” would decide the fate of the carbon tax, not the courts.
Trudeau has previously met with other provincial leaders, including Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.
Moe left the meeting last month disappointed, after Trudeau wouldn’t agree to his demands for a one-year pause on the federal carbon tax in that province, a reworked equalization formula and more overseas oil markets opened by completing pipelines beyond the Trans Mountain project. Moe said he would look for ways to expand Saskatchewan’s provincial autonomy.
Trudeau has been looking to smooth regional divisions, and Ford has simultaneously been trying to position himself as a unifying force. He offered to have the next premiers’ meeting in Toronto which will take place Dec. 2 – and has said he understands the concerns of people in Alberta and Saskatchewan, who feel like they’re being ignored.
Ontario also announced Thursday that it is creating a council on provincial-federal relations, headed up by Ford.
The team, including several senior cabinet ministers, will work with federal counterparts on priorities such as infrastructure projects, pushing for increased funding through Canada Health Transfers, removing red tape, and economic growth, including attracting international investment to all areas of Ontario.