Ontario Premier Doug Ford will no longer be reachable by his private cellphone due to a deluge of calls from “special interest groups,” his office says.
“It’s incredibly rare for any politician, especially a Premier, to be as accessible as Premier Ford,” his press secretary Ivana Yelich told HuffPost Canada in an emailed statement Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, special interest groups have co-opted this access with coordinated campaigns to push their own agendas. This has made it impossible for the Premier to use his cellphone for the original objective: to speak to the people.”
Yelich would not specify which groups she was referencing, but told HuffPost it was not uncommon for Ford to receive hundreds of calls and texts each day.
Watch: Doug Ford reacts to news of impending layoffs at Bombardier plant
Ford has frequently given out his private number at public events, encouraging people to contact him directly with concerns. It’s a form of retail politics that was also used by his late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
The premier even gave out his number during a February event in Washington, D.C., encouraging the business audience to text him because of the large volume of messages he receives. The event was broadcast on television, The Canadian Press reports.
Calls to that number now yield a message saying the line is no longer in service.
Ford’s number has been shared on social media by those encouraging Ontarians — and anyone else — to express their views on everything from his plan to use the notwithstanding clause to slash the size of Toronto’s city council last year to his government’s funding for social services.
An autism advocate says was told by the Ontario Provincial Police late last year to stop calling the premier’s cell, CBC News reports. The activist said she called Ford a “few times a week.”
In May, a Kitchener, Ont. dad who texted Ford about some dismal polling numbers told HuffPost he felt a “bit threatened” after he received a voicemail from the premier warning him to be “very, very careful” about accusing the government of corruption.
Opposition New Democrats also had some fun with the issue.
During question period last November, NDP MPP Taras Natyshak suggested General Motors workers might want to chat with Ford about the company’s decision to close its plant in Oshawa, Ont.
“For the workers watching at home who may not have the premier’s personal cellphone number but want the premier to fight for their jobs, can the premier confirm that his cellphone number is still 416-805-2156?” Natyshak said. “Let me say that again: 416-805-2156. Is that what it is?”
Ford responded that he is glad that “people talk to me.”
“You don’t get stuck in a bubble like the opposition does,” he said. “They get suck in this ivory tower.”
Ford’s office says he can still be reached through his official phone number and email.
With a file from The Canadian Press