10/09/2019 16:53 EDT

Ontario Ministers Insist They're Too Busy Governing To Help Andrew Scheer

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is campaigning for federal Conservatives while Ontario Premier Doug Ford isn't making many public appearances.

HuffPost composite/Canadian Press
Ontario ministers Lisa MacLeod and Monte McNaughton told reporters Wednesday they are too busy running the province to get involved in the federal election.

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford used a back entrance to avoid reporters at Queen’s Park Wednesday as his ministers insisted he is not in hiding. 

“He’s working everyday to govern the province of Ontario,” Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton said. 

Ford hasn’t taken questions from the press gallery since Sept. 17, while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau drags his name into the federal election conversation on a near daily basis. 

At the national leaders’ debate Monday, Trudeau brought up Ford so often that federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer suggested he run for the Ontario Liberal leadership


Scheer, on the other hand, has barely uttered Ford’s name on the campaign trail. A federal Conservative told iPolitics in June that the Ontario government’s unusually-long summer break was planned in part to help Scheer avoid being associated with the premier’s cost-cutting policies. The Progressive Conservatives put off the start date of their next legislative session from Sept. 6 to Oct. 28, exactly one week after the federal election.

On Wednesday, Ontario ministers denied there’s any beef with their federal cousins and insisted Ford has been too busy running the province to campaign with Scheer. 

I don’t know who’s scripting Andrew Scheer. So Andrew Scheer can do what Andrew Scheer does.Lisa MacLeod

“I’ve been quite busy as minister making sure that we’re committed to running the province. That said, I have a huge [Conservative candidate for Ottawa-Nepean] Abdul Abdi sign on my property,” said Lisa MacLeod, minister of tourism, culture and sport. 

“I don’t know who’s scripting Andrew Scheer. So Andrew Scheer can do what Andrew Scheer does. But he’s got my vote in this election.”

Scheer’s associate director of media relations is Simon Jefferies, who until June worked in Ford’s office. 

Vanessa Tignanelli/Canadian Press
Ontario Premier Doug Ford welcomes visitors to the International Plowing Match in Verner, Ont. on Sept. 17, 2019.

McNaughton said Ford has been too busy to campaign for Scheer because he’s “working every single day making decisions to improve the lives of the people of Ontario.”

Asked for an example of something Ford has done this summer, McNaughton noted his own announcement two weeks ago about the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

“I can tell you, I spend everyday in my riding talking to people and they’re happy with the direction we’re going here in Ontario,” McNaughton said. 

Ford made one public appearance this week at a memorial for firefighters who died on the job. He did not take questions. His Twitter feed shows he also met with First Nations chiefs, toured a Metrolinx facility and visited a salmon spawn management unit this week.

Since taking office in 2018, Ford’s office has broken with custom by not releasing his daily itineraries to the media.

Last week, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney flew to Ontario to campaign for local Conservative candidates.