CORNWALL – A crowd of about 300 supporters packed the ballroom at the Ramada Inn in Cornwall to greet Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford April 18th. He was in the riding as part of cross-province tour which he started last week in Kenora. Ford addressed the crowd for about 25 minutes.
“You’ve seen what’s happened in our province over the last 15 years,” Ford said. “We’ve seen our debt grow. The largest sub-national debt in the entire world. $310 billion dollars.”
Ford claimed that the interest payment costs for that debt amounts to $12-billion per year.
“That’s 12 billion of your hard-earned tax dollars that could be going to hospitals, to infrastructure, to families with children with autism, or could be going to our highways. That’s 12-billion dollars absolutely wasted.”
During the speech, Ford addressed issues of high electricity prices, Hydro One salaries, and taxation including the carbon tax.
“They should get rid of ‘carbon’ from the name and just call it what it is, a tax on everything,” he said.
“The grassroots people of this province are going to finally have a say,” said Ford to a cheering crowd. “They are going to be able to voice their opinion, and they’re going to be heard.”
On the theme of health care, Ford called the system broken.
“We have the greatest doctors, the greatest nurses in the world here in Ontario, but they have been under attack by the Liberal government.”
Ford said he would listen to health care professionals about how best to deliver health care.
Ford addressed Grade 6 EQAO math scores when talking about education.
“Half of them haven’t hit the provincial standards,” he said. “We should be at the highest percentile in the world.”
He said that he would talk with the teachers in the classroom on how the schools should run, “not the bureaucrats at Queen’s Park.”
During his speech Ford did not address the issue of rural education or school closings in the province. When asked by The Leader after his speech about his stance on school closures and consolidations Ford answered, “I don’t like closing schools. I support our local communities.”
Ford spent about 30 minutes meeting supporters before leaving for his next destination, Brockville, for an afternoon event.
Local MPP Jim McDonell spoke with reporters after Ford’s event. Asked by The Leader if they formed the next government whether the PC’s would extend the current moratorium on rural school closures, he was non-committal.
“We’ve had a lot of discussion in our caucus. With Doug. There is no way to support schools with under 20 students like what we’ve had,” he said. “On the other hand we have to look at how we’ve been doing education in the schools. We can’t be bussing kids from all these half-empty schools and bringing them 30 or 50 miles away.”
He said that the government needs to look at community hubs and changing the way the province educates.
“We need to develop a system where the [different] boards use the same facilities, and drive the busses to the same areas,” he said. “We don’t have the population to support huge schools unless you close all the other schools, and that’s where we’re heading.”
McDonnell said the government would look at more cooperation between boards, tying that cooperation with funding requests.
“You want money for a new soccer dome, put it where a school is or you don’t get the money.”