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Ford fires up RNP supporters in Renfrew

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

RENFREW – On the first day of the 2018 provincial election campaign, Doug Ford waded into Renfrew County Wednesday to rally his base while reassuring uncommitted voters that he's ready to be the next premier of Ontario.

With the writ dropping after midnight, the Progressive Conservative leader chose to make Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke one of his first stops as he embarks on a province-wide endeavour to convince voters over the next 30 days to return his party to government after 15 years in the political wilderness.

Accompanied by Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski and Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod, Ford entered the Renfrew Armouries to a thunderous applause from a packed crowd of some 1,000 supporters. Polls suggest Ford, a former Toronto city councillor, is well-positioned to become the next premier and he spent most of his 17-minute address attacking the record of the person he hopes to succeed – Kathleen Wynne.

With microphone in hand, Ford declined to use a podium and immediately fired up supporters with shots at the Liberal premier, and her predecessor Dalton McGuinty, criticizing their financial management of the province which he said has shouldered Ontarians with $346 million in debt.

“We have seen over 15 years how Kathleen Wynne has destroyed this province,” said Ford, a line that elicited a chorus of boos from the audience. “We have the largest sub-national debt in the entire world but finally the party with the taxpayers' money is over on June 7.”

The PC leader promised to axe the board of directors of Hydro and oust chief executive officer Mayo Schmidt, who earned $6.2 million in total compensation last year. He repeated his pledge to scrap Ontario's cap-and-trade system and reject a carbon tax.

“It is the worst tax you can put on the people not just in Ontario but across Canada,” said Ford. “That carbon tax is gone. It's done.”

Ford also didn't back down from other campaign planks the party has announced so far, such as radically changing the province’s entire education system, including repealling the sex-education and math curriculums and policing free speech on university campuses.

Ford said it was time to reform the tests conducted by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) and introduce improved standardized testing. If elected premier, he promised to fully consult parents about a more age-appropriate sex-ed curriculum. More importantly, Ford told supporters to expect to see their taxes cut, while his government would work to generate more manufacturing jobs.

“We believe we work for the people,” he said. “You can spend your money a lot wiser than the government can spend it. We are now a have-not province but we will once again be the engine of Canada.”

Ford further committed to providing 30,000 more long-term care beds, spending $1.9 billion over 10 years to address housing and mental health and reduce taxes on small and medium businesses to make the province more competitive. He expressed empathy for those Ontarians making minimum wage pledging that those employees will pay no taxes on their income.

While he made no mention of Andrea Horwath, who's NDP is running second in polling, Ford did take a dig at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinting that Ontarians and Canadians could defeat the federal Liberals in 2019. He urged those in attendance to speak to their neighbours and get the vote out on June 7.

“We have one chance to turn this government around,” he said. “We will bring transparency and integrity back to this great province.” 

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