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Premier Doug Ford pledges to ‘work with’ Justin Trudeau after bruising election campaign

After serving as Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s punching bag during the federal election campaign, Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford is striking a concilatory tone.

The morning after an election where Trudeau used Ford against Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to hold 79 of Ontario’s 121 seats — and salvage a minority Liberal government — Ford vowed to work with his political foe.

“I want to congratulate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his re-election,” the premier said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Our government looks forward to working with the prime minister, and with all federal parties, to build better public services and make life more affordable and prosperous for Ontarians and all Canadians,” said Ford.

“We stand ready to work with the federal government on important shared priorities, including building critical infrastructure for the future, breaking down barriers to trade, ensuring better access to mental health services, and investing in health care, education and other vital public services,” he said.

Ford said he was “encouraged by the prime minister’s commitment on the campaign trail to fund the federal government’s share of the all-new Ontario Line subway project.”

That’s the proposed $11-billion 15.5 km TTC line that Ford hopes will open in 2027 and run from the Ontario Science Centre in Don Mills to the Exhibition GO station in Liberty Village.

While Toronto Mayor John Tory supports the line, city council has yet to give its approval.

“Ontarians need and expect our governments to work with our municipal partners to build new and needed hospital infrastructure, create long-term care beds for our aging population, address gridlock and congestion on our roads and to build affordable housing for young people and families,” added Ford.

“I look forward to working with Prime Minister Trudeau and to continuing to work with the federal government to deliver on the priorities that matter most to the people of Ontario.”

Ford did not mention the Liberals’ carbon-pricing scheme, which he opposes, in his statement.

Despite spending $30 million fighting the measure — including an ad blitz, a court challenge, and the controversial gas-pump stickers — the premier had indicated he would respect the will of voters if they endorsed the levy.

Liberal candidates credited Ford’s budget cuts and controversial policies, which they said were not well-received at the doors.

On CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, Tory MP Erin O’Toole (Durham) conceded Trudeau was successful in blurring the lines between federal and provincial politics in order to tar Scheer with Ford’s record.

O’Toole told host Matt Galloway on Tuesday there was some confusion at the doorsteps over the Conservative and Progressive Conservative parties.

Steven Del Duca, the front-runner for the Ontario Liberal leadership, said Monday night that “the federal election result in Ontario is a clear and stunning rejection of Conservatives and Doug Ford’s reckless and incompetent government.”

Del Duca, who canvassed for 73 Liberal candidates across Ontario during the campaign, said “Ontarians refused to be fooled by Ford’s decision to go into hiding.”

Ford delayed the return of the Ontario legislature from Sept. 9 until next Monday as a favour to Scheer and remained out of the spotlight the entire campaign.

But Trudeau repeatedly invoked Ford’s name on the hustings — mentioning it 14 times at one news conference in Hamilton — to frighten voters away from Scheer, who only uttered the word “Ford” three times publicly during the writ.

Scheer managed to do so even while campaigning 700 metres from Ford’s Etobicoke home. The federal leader also welcomed Alberta Premier Jason Kenney into Ontario.

On one weekend, Kenney hit 23 events in the GTA and Ottawa for Scheer, including one in Ford’s Etobicoke North riding.

The federal Tories were mindful of polls showing Ford is personally unpopular.

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Last month’s Campaign Research tracking survey last month found Ford has a 25 per cent approval rating and a 63 per cent disapproval rating for an overall minus 38 per cent.

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

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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