TORONTO -- As Ontario Premier Doug Ford prepares to embark on a province-wide "summer tour," critics are accusing his party of using the pandemic to campaign for re-election.

The Premier's Office unveiled an eight-week long provincial tour on Tuesday, that will take the premier to 38 ridings in seven regions of Ontario "to thank Ontarians and the many businesses across this province for stepping up and doing their part during COVID-19."

While the premier will visit manufacturing plants that have been producing N95 masks and face shields during COVID-19, Ford's first two stops -- Waterloo on Tuesday and Essex on Thursday -- will be to NDP-held ridings, leading to some accusations that the premier is using the healthcare crisis to appeal for votes. 

"[Premier Ford's] priorities are way out of order - he has a detailed plan to reopen pubs and movie theatres, but none to get our kids back in school this fall," said Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca in a statement. 

"Doug Ford should spend his summer figuring out the crisis in our schools, not campaigning for re-election."

While Ford officially kicked off his re-election campaign in February at convention for the Progressive Conservative party in Niagara Falls, much of the campaign-related work was put on hold due to COVID-19. 

The Premier's Office quickly fired back saying "unlike Del Duca's Liberal party, Premier Ford believes that meaningful work doesn't just happen in downtown Toronto."

"Millions of Ontarians from across the province have banded together in response to COVID-19 and the Premier is taking this opportunity to show his appreciation for their leadership and sacrifice during this extremely challenging time," Ford's office said in a statement. 

Tour schedule Tuesday:

  • The Premier will be joined by Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, to make an announcement at Eclipse Automation. Eclipse Automation is a Cambridge-based company that retooled their automated assembly machines to make N95 and surgical masks as well as other medical equipment.
  • The Premier will then stop by Challenger Motor Freight to thank their workers for continuing to operate throughout the pandemic, including bringing essential products across the U.S. border.
  • The Premier will tour Shaver Industries, a Kitchener-based company that is making 25,000 face shields a week to help protect frontline workers against COVID-19. They also started making plastic dividers that separate golfers sharing golf carts to help keep them safe while on the course.