Despite dismal approval ratings amidst a months-long summer hiatus, Premier Doug Ford insists Ontarians are behind him and are taking stock of the changes he’s made since taking office 13 months ago.
The premier spoke on CJBQ’s Lorne Brooker Show this week and insisted that his government is working hard to lower an “unprecedented” deficit left behind by the Liberal provincial government.
“Is this province better off now than we were a year ago? We’re not a little better off, we’re a thousand times better off,” he said on the live radio show.
“The people out there when I go from town to town — and I’m all over the province — people come up to me and the number one comment is: ‘keep going, ignore the media,’” he told Brooker.
“We’re doing a great job and I’m hearing it across the province.”
Ford cited large unions and “special interests groups” as entities that are taking from taxpayers and are the biggest challenge to his government.
“We’re up against the special interest groups again. They have their hands in the cookie jar as they say, we’re pulling their hands out and … starting to respect the taxpayers,” he said.
His comments suggesting Ontarians are behind him and his government’s policies run contrary to multiple polls that have shown Ford crashing as the year goes on.
Ford’s approvals down to Wynne levels
A Mainstreet poll from the end of May showed that support for Ford had collapsed, with ratings for Ford below where Kathleen Wynne was at near the end of her tenure as premier.
Almost three quarters of those surveyed by Mainstreet said they had an unfavourable opinion of Ford.
"We have never seen an incumbent premier reach these depths in popular opinion with barely a year into his mandate,” said Mainstreet Research CEO Quito Maggi in a press release.
An Ipsos poll released on May 24 showed only 3 in ten approved of the PC government under Ford’s leadership.
During his interview with Booker, Ford addressed whether he will avoid the spotlight in the months heading up to the federal election, as some voters have said that Ford’s leadership has made them question whether to vote Conservative in the Oct. 21 election.
“I’m staying out of the federal election, I’m busy as anything taking care of the province right now,” he said.
Ford also said his government is “working harder than ever” with “MPPs spread across the province” regardless of elongated summer hiatus the legislature is taking.
In June, Ford decided to extend the summer break to Oct. 28, instead of the original date of Sept. 9.
The longer break will provide more of an opportunity for MPPs to connect more with their constituents.
“We still have cabinet meetings, we still have the caucus meetings, we still have committee meetings. So we’re going full steam ahead. I have not taken a break all summer. I don’t plan on taking a break,” Ford said.
Vic Fedeli’s demotion to the economic development portfolio along with Dean French’s resignation due to partisanship concerns made for a rocky start to the summer break.
But Ford said his government is prioritizing their “open for business” message, with a focus on making Ontario a province where it’s easier to do business. And he says that’s a success story so far.
“We’re an economic powerhouse in North America because of this government and the policies we’ve put forward,” he said. “We’re turning the province around.”