Premier Ford addresses provincial issues with 'Citizen'
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Last week, Premier Doug Ford capped a trip through rural Ontario, with stops in Alliston and Dundalk, with a private engagement in Blyth, held at Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company in support of the Huron-Bruce chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
While Ford was unable to speak with local media while in Blyth, he followed up with a phone interview with The Citizen to discuss some of the issues currently facing the province.
First, Ford said he is always happy to get out of Toronto and connect with some of the less-populated regions of Ontario.
“I love getting out of the city and I love meeting the people right across the province, especially in the rural areas; I always say they’re the salt of the earth,” he said, adding that he was able to connect with a number of farmers during his time in the area, saying they really are the “boots on the ground” in the province.
As far as agriculture, Ford said he’s been proud to offer support and stability to the farming community during his time in office. He said his government has always had farmers’ backs, which he said was a change from the previous provincial government.
“I’ll never ignore the farming community, I love them,” he said.
The Citizen then asked about the new 413 highway, intended to be constructed in the west end of Toronto at a cost of between $6-8 billion, and how it would benefit residents of Huron County.
He said, as one of the major hubs of the province, the highway will benefit most Ontarians in one way or another. He also said it would assist farmers in getting their products to market.
“We’re a government that says yes. We’re saying yes to building highways, yes to building affordable homes and saying yes to infrastructure and schools and hospitals,” Ford said.
He added that, as a result of his government’s positive attitude towards green-lighting projects, the economy is rebounding.
“We’re seeing a great response out there. We’re also seeing the economy going in the right direction. Our biggest challenge, talking to the folks out in your area, is they need people,” Ford said. “They need more people to fill the jobs, but they also need more people to continue seeing the growth.”
One of the keys to achieving that goal, Ford said, is to keep young people in rural areas by making opportunities available to them.
“A lot of young people, I’m being told, sometimes leave the farming community and they want to go to the cities. We want the young people to stay [in rural Ontario] and have a great life, so that’s what we’re encouraging,” Ford said.
Ford also touched on the state of the housing market across the province, which has made it difficult for many to afford to buy a home. He said his government is hoping to work with regions and municipalities to streamline the development process, saying many of the delays can be found at those levels.
Depending on the project, Ford said that developers can sometimes see delays of up to four or six years to get shovels in the ground.
“We’re dealing in a worldwide market right now and companies may want to expand here or relocate into your region or any region, they look at the return on their investment, and if they’re going to take four to six years to get shovels in the ground, they’re going to look elsewhere,” Ford said, adding that his government hopes to work hand-in-hand with the municipalities to help streamline processes to minimize delays.
“I’m a big believer in affordable [home] ownership, I’m also a believer in affordable housing, but affordable ownership goes a lot further. Everyone wants their own house and the white picket fence, but they want to make sure it’s affordable,” Ford said. He added that Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, is planning a new program to address housing in the province very soon.
In regards to Ford’s reticence to sign a deal with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal government for $10-a-day childcare, Ford said to The Citizen that he wants to find a deal that will work for the province, but he just doesn’t feel this is the right one.
He said he didn’t begrudge other provinces for signing a deal with the federal government, but that he doesn’t feel the current offering is the right deal for Ontario, adding that with 39 per cent of the country’s population, he feels the deal would provide the province with just 33 per cent of “the pie” of the deal. He said he will continue to “negotiate hard” for a fair deal.
“We just want a fair deal. We want to make sure that we don’t get the short end of the stick,” Ford said. “We want to make sure we have the flexibility and limited strings attached.”
He added that each province best understands its own childcare needs, but he is confident the provincial government will strike a childcare deal.
As for economic recovery as the world begins to turn the page on the COVID-19 pandemic, Ford said that cutting hydro costs and continued support will be the way forward.
“We want to make sure we keep lowering electricity costs, we did a tax cut of 8.75 per cent for them and I’ve always been a strong believer that small businesses, medium and large businesses can spend the money wiser than any level of government. I always say the worst place to give your money is to the government,” Ford said, adding that his government’s goal has been to put more money in people’s pockets, giving them more disposable income and stimulating the economy organically.
He said businesses are flocking to the province to set up shop, but the challenge now is finding the employees to staff these businesses through immigration.
Ford ended the conversation by praising the work of Huron-Bruce MPP and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson, saying she has provided a strong voice for the region.