The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing leaders from all political backgrounds to work together to address the daunting challenges facing Ontario, Canada and the rest of the world, Premier Doug Ford said.
In a 45-minute discussion Tuesday at the Ryerson Democracy Forum, hosted by Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn, Ford acknowledged that the outbreak has changed his view of politics.
“This is how I’m going to be. I’ll be that way to move on. I will not back down, ”said the Premier, highlighting his close working relationship with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland as well as with other premiers and city leaders.
“We’re like a label team. I like this type of government. I love working together, working together and, again, putting politics aside, ”he told some 500 students and thousands of others watching on thestar.com via Zoom.
The Prime Minister talks to Regg Cohn of Ryerson University about healing during the COVID-19 era.
Contrary to his earlier reputation as a Toronto city councilor at My Way or the Freeway – when his late brother, Rob Ford, was mayor from 2010 to 2014 – the Prime Minister has noted that he now seeks advice from many.
“I can tell you, Martin, that I never make a decision on my own,” Ford said.
“I bounce (the others). I am a consensus builder. I’m going to bounce off 50 people before I make a decision – (in) all different areas and all different political leanings to make sure we make the best possible decision that we think we can make. Especially with this pandemic.
This decentralized approach, he added, is the reason Queen’s Park has not always dictated coronavirus orders to different parts of the province.
“I just believe in letting each region make its decision. That’s how we’ve kind of governed this pandemic with everyone’s collaboration as long as it makes sense, ”said Ford.
“So far everything seems to be going pretty well.”
In a comment that may surprise his political rivals, Ford insisted he “was never big” when it came to partisanship.
“Don’t get me wrong, Martin, I have always said that I am very proud to be the leader of the PC Party, but our family was never 100% elected by the PC members. We are elected by traditional NDP voters or traditional Liberal party members, ”he said.
Ford said he was happy to meet Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, Green Leader Mike Schreiner and NDP Deputy Leader John Vanthof, who punched Leader Andrea Horwath, in his office last week to discuss the response to COVID-19.
“I want to keep talking with them, working with them, coming up with ideas. I understand what they have to do. They are in opposition, they must sue me. It’s politics, ”he said.
“Steven Del Duca contacted me with some ideas and it doesn’t hurt. I think it’s good if we can work together and hold myself accountable. “
Cohn asked him about a respectful exchange he had with his Liberal predecessor, Kathleen Wynne, in the Legislature last week, which made headlines for his courtesy.
“The other day when she asked me a question, I couldn’t get mad at Kathleen,” Ford said.
“She’s the only person in this whole room who has walked a mile and a half for me.” Fortunately, it is not by a pandemic, ”he said.
“Even during the campaign, Kathleen Wynne was never mean. She was never rude. He’s a very, very kind person.
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Ford noted that Wynne is one of the few people in Ontario who understands “the pressures the Premier faces and the decisions that come in the office every day – tough and tough decisions.
The Prime Minister has been much less charitable to US President Donald Trump, who earlier this year threatened to withhold critical pandemic supplies, like breathing masks, from Canada.
“I still can’t get over it. Yes, he’s not on my Christmas card list. I’m fucked up against him, ”he said, noting how Canadians came together to help Americans after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
When a Ryerson student compared Ford to Trump, the Prime Minister chuckled, “Boy, that was a real slap in the face calling me Donald Trump. I am anything but Donald Trump.
The Prime Minister added that he was surprised by Trump’s “disgusting” attack during last week’s boisterous presidential debate over Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who has battled drug addiction.