Premier Doug Ford booed at Special Olympics ceremony

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Premier Doug Ford booed at Special Olympics ceremony


Hundreds of people booed Premier Doug Ford at the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

In contrast to Toronto Mayor John Tory, whose presence at the non-partisan event was cheered, Ford was jeered when he took the stage Tuesday night.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was booed during the opening of the Special Olympics Youth Games in Toronto, something the New Democrats say proves budget cuts are not popular with Ontario families.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was booed during the opening of the Special Olympics Youth Games in Toronto, something the New Democrats say proves budget cuts are not popular with Ontario families.  (Cole Burston / The Canadian Press)

“Boy … you know something? I haven’t heard that much energy in a long time,” the premier said gamely.

“My friends, boy, that’s the first time I’ve ever had some boos.”

In fact, Ford was booed several times at candidate debates during the 2014 mayoral race he lost to Tory.

Eyewitnesses told the Star the premier appeared visibly shaken by the booing.

On Wednesday, the opposition New Democrats pounced on the episode, saying it proves the cuts in last month’s budget are not popular with Ontario families.

“It sounds like the folks at the event wish the premier hadn’t showed up at all,” said MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex).

The barbs infuriated Progressive Conservative MPPs in the legislature.

“I find it ironic coming from the member from Essex. He didn’t even bother showing up. At least we showed up,” the premier said.

“The throwing stones at a glass house is pretty staggering,” said Ford.

“I would remind the member from Essex, I’ve spent my whole life helping children with special needs through Rotary. For 23 years, I helped through Rotary by going to events and helping children,” he said.

“That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about getting into gutter politics and worrying about if you get a cheer or a boo. It’s about being there for the kids.”

Ford’s caucus gave him a standing ovation for his response.

But there are concerns among Conservatives because the Special Olympics, a global celebration of what people with intellectual disabilities can achieve in athletics, have always been apolitical.

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The fact Tory, who has been in a war of words with Ford over the budget’s impact on the city, was hailed at the same event suggests the mayor’s campaign against Queen’s Park may be finding some traction.

A recent Corbett Communications poll conducted for the Star found the premier’s personal popularity is waning just 11 months after he led the Tories to a majority victory in the June 7 election that toppled the Liberals, who had been in power for almost 15 years.

The survey found 24 per cent approved of the job the premier is doing compared with 66 per cent who disapprove, with 10 per cent who were unsure. That’s a -42 per cent approval rating.

Corbett used Maru/Blue’s Maru Voice Canada online panel to poll 1,836 Ontario voters May 2-3. A sample of that size would have a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie





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