Doug Ford makes campaign stop in Kingston

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Progressive Conservative leader avoids comment on tuition

Premier candidate Doug Ford (right) during a press conference at the Legion Royal Branch 560.
Premier candidate Doug Ford (right) during a press conference at the Legion Royal Branch 560.
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At a routine campaign stop in Kingston on Sunday afternoon, Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford evaded a pointed question posed to him by The Journal regarding his plan for tuition affordability and how he would fund it.

The question was prefaced by referencing the Liberal party's change to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) in Feb. 2017—where students from households with incomes of $50,000 or less were made eligible for free tuition—and the NDP's platform promises to convert student loans to non-repayable grants.

During a press conference held at the Royal Legion Branch 560, the PC Leader criticized the NDP’s economic management and expressed his admiration for Queen's and its students. 

Citing a Queen’s University Conservative Association event he attended on Apr. 17 at Megalos Restaurant, Ford said the most pressing issue postsecondary students face is an increasingly depleted labour market.

“Well, first of all, my friend,” Ford said, “when I met with a group of Queen’s students, the number one question from them [was], ‘Am I going to have a job?’”

Ford noted he met with “about 40” students—the Facebook page for the event lists 36 attended—who shared his concerns about a majority NDP government.

“Under the NDP government, they’re terrified,” Ford said, referring to lack of employment for postsecondary graduates.  “Queen’s students, I think, along with a lot of other universities—Queen’s are some the best and brightest in the country—and the first issue they’re concerned about out of university [is] am I going to have a job.”

“Well,” Ford continued, “under the NDP, under the radical NDP, they aren’t going to a have job. Their family’s not going to have a job. Their neighbors aren’t going to have a job.”

The PC Leader added students want jobs, and under his party’s government, they’d have “great jobs, great opportunities, and great prosperity.”

“[Companies are] going to be lined up from here to Timbuktu because we’ll have the most prosperous jobs and companies out there.”

Ford further expressed his “love” for Queen’s and highlighted how students from the university have helped or worked for his campaign.

“They’re going to thrive, the students from Queen’s. … I [got to] tell you, I’m a little biased towards Queen’s. I love Queen’s, I do,” he said, laughing. “A lot of Queen’s students helped on our campaign and on [Ford’s brother] Rob’s campaign and they’re excited.”

“They’re bright, bright people. We actually have a former Queen’s student on our team right now in the crowd, and he’s excelled.”

Ford’s answer to The Journal’s question lasted exactly two minutes. He did not mention the word “tuition” in his response, and follow-up questions were not made available to media.

The Leader also did not address how a PC government would create more jobs for postsecondary students.

Before the campaign stop, the Premier candidate’s stance on tuition already proved contentious.

In April, when asked for details as to how the party’s then-impending platform would benefit postsecondary students, a PC spokesman said Ford’s platform would be released “in the coming weeks.” The platform was released more than a month later on May 31—just seven days before the June 7 election.

Titled ‘Plan For The People,’ Ford’s platform consists of 10 pillars and spans over 3,200 words. The word “tuition” is omitted entirely from the platform, while “student” and “university” appear just once.Number of times select words appear in Conservative, Liberal and NDP platforms. Graphic by Laura O'Grady

Before his press conference at the Legion, Ford visited Kingston and the Islands PC candidate Gary Bennett’s campaign office. The Leader spent approximately 25 minutes sharing his party’s message and meeting with local supporters. 

When asked whether the Premier candidate would be available to media after the event, Jeff Silverstein—Director of Communications for the Ford campaign—told The Journal the Leader was “very busy” and could not take time for questions.

Ford greeting a supporter outside Bennett's campaign office. Photo by Sebastian Bron

Shortly after Ford’s campaign bus exited the parking lot to Bennett’s office, The Journal was told from a person in attendance that Ford, Bennett and Newmarket-Aurora PC candidate Christine Elliot—who travelled with Ford to Kingston—would be headed to the Legion to meet with military veterans.  

Upon The Journal’s arrival to the Legion, Ford’s campaign bus could be seen parked behind the building. Inside, dozens of people waited in the building’s foyer—and, in the Main Hall, it was apparent that Ford would in fact be holding a press conference.

Ford’s social media pages and the Ontario PC’s official website did not disclose of the Leader’s scheduled visit to the Legion. The National Post reported Ford would be in attendance at the Legion, but didn’t specify the purpose of the campaign stop, nor if there would be media availability.

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