Premier Doug Ford is urging Ontario businesses to rally behind him as he stares down the “forces” opposed to his rollback of workplace protections and a higher minimum wage.
Speaking to the Ontario Economic Summit in Niagara-on-the-Lake on Friday, Ford warned that powerful interests are trying to thwart his changes.
“There are forces in Ontario who had it good under the stagnant Liberal economy, who were happy seeing businesses close and freezing workers out of better jobs,” he said.
Statistics Canada data shows Ontario’s economy has actually been growing for years before he was elected in June.
Still, Ford said cancelling the $1 hike to the $14-an-hour minimum wage — and eliminating two paid sick days for Ontario workers as of Jan. 1 — has awakened his political foes.
“These forces are already organizing and preparing to spend a lot of money to try to stop us,” the premier said, apparently referring to some labour unions.
“Some of them have already engaged in violence, crime and intimidation. This week they broke into and vandalized (Labour) Minister Laurie Scott’s constituency office,” he said.
Vandals smashed the front plate glass window and door and spray-painted graffiti reading “Attack workers we fight back $15” on an exterior wall of Scott’s Lindsay office on Tuesday night.
“But these desperate intimidation tactics won’t stop us,” stressed Ford.
“We’re prepared for the fight ahead and today … my ask of the OCC, of big and small businesses, of entrepreneurs, of skilled trades people, of colleges, of pro-job labour unions, of young people trying to get into skilled trades, is to keep it up,” the premier said.
“Keep fighting with me. You know that I’m here to fight for the little guy. I’m here to fight for that job that was previously out of reach,” he said in a campaign-style speech.
“Because, unlike the Liberals and the NDP, we believe that when business succeeds, workers succeed, families succeed (and) communities succeed.”
Ford also used his address as a forum to attack the prime minister, who has emerged as a favourite punching bag with a federal election next year.
“This week, Justin Trudeau unveiled the latest change to his carbon tax plan. He is promising to send everybody a cheque to cover their carbon tax costs. Just in time for the federal election,” he said.
“We all know what happens next — once the election is over — the rebate disappears. And families and businesses across Ontario will be stuck paying the carbon tax forever.”
The provincial government “will use every tool we have to fight this terrible tax,” he said, referring to the $35 million he has earmarked for a constitutional court challenge of the measure.