Doug Ford defends decision to not visit Ottawa for more than a week after storm

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Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford is defending his decision to not visit Ottawa sooner following a deadly storm that has left thousands of people in the area without power for nine days.

At a campaign stop in the city on Monday, the incumbent premier faced questions about why it took him more than a week to visit the area that was the hardest hit by the destructive storm that swept across the province on May 21.

“I was on the phone every single day, making sure we got the resources here,” said Ford, who was scheduled to travel to Windsor in southwestern Ontario later in the day. “I’m not here to do a photo op, like maybe other politicians were. I was boots on the ground, making sure we have the resources here.”

Hydro Ottawa said that 8,000 customers were still without power in the National Capital Region on Monday morning. The utility said it has restored power to 172,000 customers over the past nine days.

Ford’s campaign stop in the riding of Ottawa West-Nepean on Monday morning was his first public appearance in the area in months.

Ford said last week he wouldn’t visit Ottawa in the wake of the storm because he didn’t want to distract crews trying to repair downed power lines. His stop there on Monday did not include any sites still impacted by the storm, but he was scheduled to visit with local firefighters.

“Let me tell you what we’ve done for Ottawa: every single day I was in touch with Hydro One and on top of that, with the hydro providers across the province, including Hydro Ottawa,” said Ford. “We put resources through ministries, we brought in ministries, involved (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry), we brought firefighters, reached out to other provinces. They brought in their utility workers and I want to thank the utility workers for working around the clock.”

Ford visited Uxbridge, Ont., on May 23, a day after that community declared a state of emergency following the same storm. He said that short trip 80 kilometres northeast of Toronto wasn’t part of his campaign.

“I had a call from the mayor, there wasn’t supposed to be any media there. I guess someone leaked it out,” said Ford when asked why he visited Uxbridge and not Ottawa. “I wanted to go there and take a quick look and came right back.”

Eleven people died in the storm across Ontario, with nine being killed by falling trees. Environment Canada said the severe weather involved a derecho — a rare widespread windstorm associated with a line of thunderstorms — that developed near Sarnia, Ont., and moved northeast across the province, ending in Quebec City.