A comment last Friday by Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford that the province should be ” taking care of our own first, ” before bringing more immigrants to sparsely populated northern Ontario, has sparked sharp criticisms, leaving the Ford
campaign team scrambling to undertake damage control.
At a provincial leaders debate in Parry Sound, Ford said he had concerns about replicating a federal pilot project now underway in Atlantic Canada. to attract newcomers to remote parts of Ontario.
“I’d be more than happy to sit down and talk to the folks and look at a pilot project. But number one — I’m a pretty generous guy — I’m taking care of our own first,” said Ford.
“Once we take care of our own and we exhaust, we exhaust, every single avenue and we don’t have anyone that can fulfill the job then I’d be open to that,” he added.
Both Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath were reported to have expressed shock at the comment.
” That was a pretty—a pretty shocking comment to hear from the leader of a major provincial party,” Wynne said after the debate.
She said ” our history in this province is about people coming from somewhere else to make a life here and to build this province up.
” So to have Doug Ford say that somehow there’s one province that’s for one kind of Ontarians and there’s another province for another kind of Ontarian…that’s just is the opposite of how I see this strong, vibrant diverse society that we have built.”
“What Doug Ford did in that comment was really divide people. And I don’t think that kind of divisiveness, that kind of separating of some Ontarians from others…I don’t think it’s who we are or what we stand for. Certainly not what I stand for. ”
Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services and a candidate in the upcoming provincial elections for Don Valley East in Toronto, said he found Ford’s comments on immigration insulting.
” As an immigrant myself, I took it personal.”
” It’s a type of language that I think breeds a culture of fear and separation,
Responding to the criticisms, Ford told reporters on Saturday that his opponents are ” playing politics.”
“I’m a huge supporter of new Canadians. I’m a huge supporter of new immigrants coming into this country, trying to make their own way,” he said.
In a statement, Ford’s campaign spokeswoman Melissa Lantsman said the leader’s comments at the debate are being mischaracterized by his political opponents.