When Doug Ford was in the area last week, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati appeared at his side, wholeheartedly endorsing him for a second term as premier.
He spoke of Ford’s accomplishments, and his promises: he’s committed to getting GO train regularly-scheduled service through to Niagara Falls, he’s agreed to twin the Garden City Skyway, and he’s reaffirmed his commitment to building a new hospital in Niagara Falls.
“He’s a great guy to work with,” said Diodati, standing in front of the site of the new hospital.
Ford always returns the mayor’s calls, he’s committed to this area, “and he knows how to get things across the finish line.”
Ford spoke well of PC candidate Bob Gale, who was at the event, calling him “a real true business person.”
He went on to say that if asked, he couldn’t say who the local MPP is in the Niagara Falls riding. “The local representative is the mayor,” he said, calling Diodati a “double-hatter” who is also the area MPP.
When Ford was in NOTL at McNab Acres landscaping on Niagara Stone Road, he promised the Garden City Skyway would offer “a faster, safer and more reliable drive so that moms and dads can spend less time in traffic and more time at home with their kids.”
He also spoke of more affordable housing and building the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital.
When asked by a St. Catharines Standard reporter about why three Niagara PC candidates were not speaking to media or taking part in TV, radio and Chamber of Commerce debates, he avoided the question. “Do you think it’s appropriate that people who want a job for the next four years are not showing up for the job interview?” asked Karena Walter of the Standard. Instead of answering, Ford repeated his PC message, and the folly of voting for any other candidates.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero, asked about a municipal mayor endorsing a provincial candidate during the election, told The Local that while it might not be unusual in Toronto, where political parties sometimes run a slate of municipal candidates, it is not something she would consider doing.
It’s one thing for municipal politicians to take a stand on the policies of a provincial or federal representative, particularly when those policies impact their municipality, she said, but quite another to endorse a candidate during an election.
In her mind, “for a municipal politician to personally support a provincial candidate would be wrong.”
A municipal politician is supposed to represent everyone in his or her riding, “and not everyone in that riding supports the same political party,” she said.
She has already cast her vote for the provincial election, and as the lord mayor, she needs to be able to work with the town’s MPP, no matter what party they represent. Endorsing one candidate over another could make that difficult, she said. “We have to be able to work with everybody.”
NDP candidate and incumbent Wayne Gates says regardless of the words of Doug Ford, he believes the constituents he represents “know what I’ve achieved.”
He lists some of his commitments to his riding, including his fight in recent years to improve local health care, to address the MRI shortage, and in particular, the number of times he spoke in the legislature about the need for more vaccine in Niagara when it was diverted to other areas. “I worked around the clock to make sure this community got its fair share, and it never happened again. The president of the Niagara Health System called me to say they needed the vaccine for long-term care and for the nurses, and the doctors signed a letter asking for more vaccine. I fought, I stood up at Queen’s Park more than once to get the vaccine we deserved when we were in crisis, and at the end of the day we got it.”
He spoke of investments in the Shaw Festival and in the NOTL Museum, and said the accomplishment that most touches his heart is the successful end to a three-year battle alongside Maya Webster, a young girl with type 1 diabetes, to get the province to cover the cost of a continuous glucose monitor that is life-saving for diabetics who would otherwise rely on frequent needle pricks, which are not as reliable or effective.
“Through my speeches at Queen’s Park we’ve put Niagara on the map,” says Gates.
He also addressed Ford’s avoidance of the issue of his candidate not speaking at debates or to the press. “I have to talk to the media. I have to show up at debates, I answer every phone call.” he says, because that is part of his job. “I wish I had the opportunity to debate the Conservative candidate.”
Gates says this riding is a clear race between him and the Ford Conservatives, “and if you want to stop Doug Ford, the only way to do that is to vote for me.”