Ontario Premier Doug Ford is pleading with Ontarians to stop calling and texting his personal cellphone, because he said he’s getting hundreds of text messages and calls a day.
“I appreciate people calling to check up on myself and my family, we’re so grateful. And I apologize if I can’t get back to you. It’s not personal, because I pride myself on getting back [to people],” Ford said at the end of his Thursday press conference.
The premier said he has to be 100 per cent focused on his work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So please, don’t be offended. I get comments back on my messaging, you know, ‘Why aren’t you returning my call?’” Ford said. “The truth of the matter is I’m getting hundreds a day and I just can’t do it.”
He said although he’s grateful for people checking in, unless you or your family is in an emergency, “we’ll chat later on.”
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Ford is known for being accessible to the public through his personal phone.
In 2019, he announced he would no longer be reachable through his private phone due to an overwhelming number of calls from special interest groups.
“It’s incredibly rare for any politician, especially a Premier, to be as accessible as Premier Ford,” his press secretary told HuffPost Canada at the time.
Months before that announcement, an Ontario citizen texted Ford’s number to ask about a friend who was laid off — and received a call back from the premier. The citizen, Daniel Enright, wrote a viral Twitter thread and eventual Toronto Star article, about the late-night call, calling it “surreal” and “unsettling.”
In another call last year, a father from Kitchener, Ont. said he felt “a little bit threatened” after Ford called him and warned him to be careful of accusing the government of corruption.
The father, Michael Cole, told HuffPost his then-six-year-old twin boys, who both have autism, lost their government-funded therapy when the Progressive Conservatives changed the Ontario Autism Program.
Cole sent Ford a text message with poll results showing he was less popular than former premier Kathleen Wynne was at the end of her term, accusing Ford’s government of “corruption.”
In a voice mail, Ford responded, “But Michael, you gotta be very, very careful when you tell someone that they’re corrupt. Very, very, very careful. OK, my friend?”
Ford’s brother, the late Toronto mayor Rob Ford, was also known for picking up the phone and talking to his constituents.
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