TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he understands the frustrations of western Canadians after being asked Monday how he could bring the country together without speaking French.
“I think it’s everyone’s job” to unite the country, Ford said at a press conference in Etobicoke, Ont. “There are concerns out west, I understand those concerns and we’re gonna work through those concerns. It’s like any family, any business, you have a few bumps in the road but you stay united.”
There are concerns out west, I understand those concerns and we’re gonna work through those concerns.Doug Ford
The premier did mention Quebec once on Monday, after he was asked if his government’s softer tone means he’s giving himself a political makeover.
“I think we’ve toned it down at Queen’s Park. We have to make sure we work together, we listen ... We gotta unify this country. It’s divisive right now,” he said.
“Listen to the people out west, ’cause they really have concerns. Listen to the people of Quebec. You see the Bloc [Quebecois] with the most seats of any other party in Quebec. I’m gonna go pay Premier [François] Legault a visit … I still owe him two dinners from the Habs beating the Leafs.”
Ford has had a lot to say about Western Canada since the federal Liberals were shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan in the Oct. 21 election. He’s spoken less often about Quebec, where the nationalist party Bloc Quebecois took 32 seats to the Liberals’ 35.
In a fundraising email to supporters Monday, Ford said he sympathizes with Canadians in western provinces.
“How are they supposed to feel like they’re getting a fair deal?” read the email, signed “Doug.”
“I’m good friends with these Premiers. Out west, and in Quebec too. If [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau doesn’t get this right, some really big problems are going to get a whole lot worse.”
He said Albertans are mad because Trudeau’s government “put a great big carbon tax on everything” and “is trying to shut down their energy industry.”
Alberta group calls for separation
Driven by fluctuations in the oil and gas industry, Alberta has an unemployment rate of 6.6 per cent while the national rate is 5.5 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average at 5.3 per cent.
In Alberta, organizers of a group calling itself WexitAlberta — a play on Brexit that stands for Western exit — are advocating for the province to separate from Canada.
Ford said Monday that “anyone in Canada, even people out West,” would rather be listened to than actually secede. He noted that Albertans pay $20 billion more in taxes every year to the federal government than they get back in services.
“They just feel like they’re being ignored.”
He said he offered to host a meeting of all provincial and territorial leaders in Toronto after Trudeau announces his new cabinet on Nov. 20.