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CTV News Exclusive: Ford opens up about the one thing he'd do differently a year into the job
Friday marks one year since Doug Ford was elected Premier of Ontario, and in one word, he says the last 365 days have been “busy.”
Speaking with CTV News Toronto from his north Etobicoke home, the premier said the work has been constant, but having a father who was an MPP and a brother who served as mayor of Toronto he was given some insight into what running the province would be like.
“I guess you never have a 100 per cent idea until you’re actually in the shoes, be it the mayor or the premier, and then you find out real quick.”
And Ford did.
After winning a majority government and relegating the Liberals to a mere seven seats in the legislature—which resulted in the loss of official party status—he and his Progressive Conservative government moved swiftly to implement their agenda.
From cancelling cap and trade to changing course on pot sales, cutting Toronto City Council nearly in half and overhauling the health care system, the premier says that his government has passed 255 items through the legislature—something he says is “unprecedented in Canadian politics in a year.”
When asked if he could have one "do-over," Ford was quick to mention the autism file.
This past February, the government moved to revamp the Ontario Autism Program and clear the 20,000-child waitlist for therapy. The decision outraged families, who received a dramatic cut in funding.
The government has since said the program will be changed once again, following a new round of consultations.
Ford says he gave Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa McLeod a budget of $300 million, but wishes he would have given her $600 million from the beginning.
The provincial government also came under fire for slashing millions of dollars to Ontario municipalities, including more than $150 million in cuts to the City of Toronto.
In a surprise announcement outside his Queen’s Park office last week, Ford said that the funding cuts would be deferred and that he leads “a government that listens.”
In an interview Wednesday, Ford told CTV News Toronto that he didn’t think his government acted too quickly in making the cuts mid-way through the fiscal year.
Ford says relationship with Tory is 'good'
In the past year, Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory have not seen eye-to-eye on many fronts.
In response to the PC government’s municipal cuts, Tory launched a petition and went door-to-door in Conservative ridings to alert residents of the changes.
Ford, in response, called City Hall a bunch of “spendaholics” who were unwilling to look for savings.
Speaking with CTV News Toronto, Ford says that the two are not at odds and describes his relationship with Tory as “good.”
“I have talked to him, I called him up, we’re down in Florida at Christmas, we go for breakfast together, lunch together.”
Yet, there is a new battle brewing at City Hall. The Ontario government has rejected Toronto’s housing plan for parts of midtown and downtown, moving to allow more highrises to be built near transit hubs.
Tory said he learned of the plans last minute through text message, but Ford said that the provincial government consulted with the mayor’s chief of staff.
“They knew we wanted to create density around subways, which is the right thing to do… We have to make sure that we have affordable housing.”
Is Ontario open for business?
Ford’s government is in the process of tearing up the 10-year contract with The Beer Store as it aims to allow beer sales in corner stores and grocery stores. The bill, which was introduced last week, would put an end to the deal signed under the Liberal government in 2015 and would protect the province from paying damages to The Beer Store.
Lawyers representing The Beer Store previously called the legislation “unconstitutional.”
Both the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce raised concerns about what message the decision would send to the business community, especially when the government has said that the province is “open for business.”
“Our strong concern is that terminating an existing contract, and doing so without compensation, risks sending a negative signal,” wrote the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President, Neil Herrington in a message to the province.
The premier defended the decision and said that his government wants to end the “monopoly” on beer.
“I always asked myself as a businessman, who wouldn’t want 12,000 distributors of their product. The only people that don’t want it are three big beer giants that own the beer store,” Ford said.
'We need to fix the finances'
The premier often points out that his government inherited crippling debt, saying that “the previous government (was) spending $40 million dollars a day they didn’t have… we need to fix the finances.”
“We’ve created the environment that the province is absolutely booming right now, thriving, prospering. It is better off than it was a year ago,” Ford said.
But recent polls indicate that support for the Ford government has fallen amid the cuts. A Mainstreet Research Poll released last month found that support for the PC government has “collapsed” and fallen below that of the Ontario New Democratic Party and the Ontario Liberals.
The premier, on the other hand, said he doesn’t believe in polls. At the end of his four-year term, he says “the people will determine – is the province better now than it was four years ago?”