Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is shrugging off suggestions that Ontario Premier Doug Ford is trying to replace him as the face of the national Conservative movement.
Scheer met with Ford at the Ontario Legislature today, where he said they discussed a range of issues including their shared opposition to the federal Liberal carbon-pricing plan.
Ford has been a strong critic of the federal carbon tax and has also voiced his opposition to the plan during trips to other provinces.
When asked whose brand is stronger, Scheer told reporters both he and Ford are working toward the same goals.
“The brand that I’m closely associated with is the brand of lowering costs for Canadians, making life more affordable, and standing up to new taxes,” said Scheer.
Ford said earlier in the day that the only way to get rid of the carbon tax is to defeat the prime minister in next year’s federal election.
It is the first time Ford and Scheer have met since August, when the premier was greeted with wild enthusiasm at the Conservative Party of Canada convention.
With a fresh mandate as premier of Canada’s largest province, Ford now plays a key role on the national political scene, and is inserting himself into federal politics with growing frequency as next year’s election creeps closer. His primary targets are Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his carbon pricing plan.
“It’s nothing more than a complete scam,” Ford said of the carbon tax during a news conference Monday. He said Trudeau is “trying to buy Canadians with their own money, buy votes with their own money.”
Coming on the heels of two meetings with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and a recent rally with Alberta opposition leader Jason Kenney, Ford’s meeting with Scheer shows how he plans to work with conservative politicians across the country to try to defeat Trudeau in next October’s federal election.
“Everyone knows we’ve taken Kathleen Wynne’s hands out of your pocket,” said Ford at his own rally earlier this month. “Now we all have a bigger job… We’re going to take Justin Trudeau’s hands out of your pockets.”
Federal Conservatives believe Scheer can replicate Ford’s success nationally, and they believe opposing the carbon tax will be an essential ingredient.
Ontario’s Environment Minister Rod Phillips said Monday that Ford’s talks with Scheer would focus on the next phase of the battle against the carbon tax.
Phillips is promising to put forward the Ford government’s plan for tackling climate change next month, and dropped a few hints about it on Monday.
“Ontario needs to ensure that emissions-intensive industries are held accountable; while at the same time acknowledging that Ontario-based companies have to compete in the global economy,” Phillips said in a speech to the Empire Club in Toronto.
He said Ontario is already on track to meet its carbon emission targets for 2020, citing the closure of coal-fired power plants, nearly all of which were shuttered during the tenure of the province’s Liberal governments over the past 15 years.