TORONTO — Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford faced a barrage of attacks from the other three main party leaders during the Ontario election debate on Monday, but largely refused to take the bait, referring instead to its own messages about building infrastructure and affordability.
One of the harshest criticisms came from Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, who slammed Ford for what he called the Tory leader’s disrespect for nurses as prime minister, including capping wage increases for public sector workers.
“Mr. Ford, have you spoken to a nurse recently?” Schreiner said.
“Have you spoken to a nurse about how… they feel insulted to be called heroes and then basically have their pay cut by freezing them? Mr. Ford, if you want to build the capacity of our system, you have to invest in the people who provide our care.
Tim Abray, a lecturer in political studies at Queen’s University, said Ford played successfully on defense.
“I think he avoided getting embroiled in hammer-and-clamp debates over his record,” he said.
“I think he did what he usually does, which is to say, he avoided a lot of these questions, threw broad slogans, broad accusations. But yeah, he really wasn’t interested in going into detail about anything tonight.
Polls suggest Ford has a large lead in the election so far, and Abray said the strategy employed by the Conservative leader during the debate was a typical front-runner tactic.
“When you go into an election with that kind of substantial leadership, the general wisdom is that you just try to keep it going by not drawing attention to yourself,” Abray said.
Schreiner also criticized Ford for its handling of long-term care during the pandemic, and Ford responded by saying it was building hospitals.
“When we came to power, our healthcare system was broken,” he said earlier in the healthcare section of the debate.
“Each region of this province is getting a new hospital… 50 projects in each region.
Ford also said the Progressive Conservatives would fund nurses’ tuition if they worked in an underserved area, and noted that his government had given personal support workers a $3 pay raise. hour and awarded the nurses a retention bonus of $5,000.
The other three leaders argued that repealing legislation that capped pay increases for nurses and other public sector workers would help them more than giving them a one-off payment.
This legislation, Bill 124, also affected teachers and sparked a series of tense negotiations over education contracts with the Ford government.
Teachers and education staff, who have staged various strikes and work-to-rule campaigns against wage moderation, have increased class sizes and Ford has mandated two e-learning courses for graduation from education, although the government eventually softened its stance on the latter two. The government also briefly considered cuts to full-day kindergarten.
“One of the things that Mr. Ford refuses to acknowledge is the cuts and chaos he has brought to our public education system,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
“Your cuts and chaos have destabilized our education system significantly. Ask any parent and they’ll tell you the same thing. You can’t cut to a better education system, you just can’t.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca also criticized Ford on the education file.
“Your public education record is a disgrace and you should be ashamed of yourself,” he said. “You, sir, have failed in this province.”
Ford said he was proud of his government’s record on education, saying it was helping students prepare for the jobs of the future.
The Progressive Conservative leader has often gone back on his message to build, create jobs and put money in people’s pockets.
The debate began with a heated exchange between Ford and Del Duca.
Ford rattled off a list of accusations at Del Duca, including that it wanted to bring back license plate renewal fees and increase highway tolls.
Del Duca stepped in to refute every point, directing Ford to the Ontario Liberals’ website to check out their campaign promises.
“There’s an old saying in life: ‘You’re entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts,’ Mr. Ford,” Del Duca said.
Ford’s opening statement highlighted its plan to build Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass, saying the economy is booming.
Horwath said she hopes New Democrats can fix what matters most to Ontarians.
She also poked fun at the 90-minute debate itself.
“I’m sure it’s not the most fun thing you’ll do on a Monday night, but because you’re joining us, it shows that you care and that this election has a lot at stake,” he said. she declared.
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