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Ontario NDP and Liberals say criticism of Ford amid truck convoy … – CTV News Toronto

As Toronto prepares for another protest and convoy demonstrations in Ottawa reach the two-week mark, Ontario’s opposition parties insist they’re not playing politics as they speak out against the Premier Doug Ford’s perceived inaction.

The leaders of both the Ontario NDP and Liberals have stepped up their attacks against the premier, accusing him of abandoning the nation’s capital while presenting their own ideas on how to force embedded truck drivers to leave the encampment.

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca – who said the premier has been “invisible” – recently visited Ottawa to speak with affected business owners and families impacted by the blaring horns and prolonged closures as they wait for Ottawa police to step in. He is also scheduled to visit Windsor on Thursday as protests once again force the Ambassador Bridge to close.

But both parties insist they are not playing politics when it comes to the truck convoy.

“Absolutely not,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said when asked by CTV News Toronto whether her party was politicizing the issue. “What this is, is us trying to stand up for the people of Ottawa and put an end to this nightmare that they’ve been facing.”

Del Duca told CTV News Toronto that he’s been quick to congratulate the premier in the past on pandemic policy measures the parties align on, but stressed that his sharpened attacks have nothing to do with the provincial election just 16 weeks away.

“This is not about politics,” he said. “This is about: we need a premier who knows the job, who understands what the job is, and is prepared to do the job even under difficult circumstances.”

Andrew McDougall, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said the NDP and the Liberals may have very little to lose given their political base is more likely to support vaccine mandates.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives, McDougall said, find themselves in a more “difficult” political position.

“The Conservatives are actually in power. So they’re the ones that have put down all of these restrictions,” he said, adding that a sitting government doesn’t want to give off the impression their policy decisions are influenced by protests.

“The opposition party is, of course, going to put as much pressure as they can on the government … they’re going to make as many suggestions that they can that this isn’t being handled correctly.”

But Del Duca has pushed beyond that, suggesting the premier is trying to avoid upsetting a political base needed in the next provincial election.

“This is about whose side Doug Ford is on. Who is he supporting? Whose values does he seem to want to share?,” Del Duca said during an interview with CTV News Toronto. “Doug Ford is making it so crystal clear that because he’s obsessed with his own political coalition, he can’t do the right thing for the people of Ottawa.”

Multiple sources have told CTV News Toronto that Ford is now considering speeding up the province’s reopening schedule, with cabinet set to consider the new time table on Friday.

While the protests may be more of a wedge election issue on a federal level, McDougall said political leaders of all stripes may be “feeling a little bit of pressure” to be seen trying to resolve the situation.

The opposition attacks, however, do carry some weight. The premier took several days before commenting on the demonstrations in Ottawa and has since been quiet about the growing protests with tentacles that have reached Toronto and the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor—with the exception of a Tweet Wednesday night in which Ford says he has spoken with the prime minister about the occupations.

I spoke with Prime Minister @JustinTrudeau this evening about the ongoing occupations in Ottawa and Windsor. We will continue working together to support our police forces as they manage these situations. We both agreed this must come to an end.

— Doug Ford (@fordnation) February 10, 2022

This message on social media came hours after the federal government revealed that a trilateral table to resolve the ongoing Ottawa occupation couldn’t begin because the province of Ontario had yet to send a representative.

Policing amid such a large protest could be “tricky situation” for the premier, McDougall said. Earlier this week the Solicitor General was accused of inflating the number of OPP officers dispatched to Ottawa when she claimed 1,500 personnel were deployed – Ottawa police said the true number was closer to 100 officers per day.

When asked about the premier’s notable absence during the protests, Deputy Premier Christine Elliott said Ford has been “working around the clock” on economic issues, but the occupation and bridge disruptions “is a matter of concern to him.”

“We also need to work with the federal government when we’re talking about border crossings,” Elliott said of the protests at an unrelated news conference. “So we asked the federal government to assist with this as well.”

The few times Ford has spoken out about the protests has been when he condemned the use of hateful symbols and messages by some of the participants and when he voiced his support for the mayors of Ottawa and Toronto while speaking at an event for Canada’s premiers.

As of Wednesday, Ottawa police estimate about 500 trucks and other vehicles remain in the downtown core. The city remains under a state of emergency while officials have described the protesters as “highly determined and volatile.”

The City of Toronto, meanwhile, closed off Queen’s Park Circle Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of another rumoured demonstration.

With the protests unwavering, McDougall said it’s unclear how this will impact official campaign messaging as the weeks go on. It will all depend, he said, on how long the protests last and how it ultimately ends.

“If at the end of the day, it ends relatively quietly and people disperse, then I think that will lead to a very different type of messaging,” he said.

“But if things were to take a violent turn, then I think it would be a different message for sure, and might play a different role. But I think it’s too early to really know that yet. The election isn’t until June.”