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Canada How Doug Ford spends his days as Ontario’s Premier

Ontario Premier Doug Ford walks into a holding room before speaking to journalists to share his achievements in government, in Toronto, on June 7, 2019, on the one year anniversary of him taking office.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Doug Ford’s favourite spot for power breakfasts is an unremarkable restaurant in an airport hotel. He makes meeting business leaders a priority, typically keeps his evenings open and travels outside the Toronto area about three times a month.

The Ontario Premier does not release itineraries detailing how he spends his days, but eight months of his calendars obtained by The Globe and Mail through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests provides a window into how he uses his time and who has his ear.

According to Mr. Ford’s schedules, his formal work day typically begins just before 9 a.m. with a call-in briefing and ends by 5 p.m. In between, Mr. Ford usually has five to 10 appointments, including meetings, phone calls and events, and Question Period when the House is in session. On average, he has an evening engagement once a week and is on the road three times a month. Other than his daily briefing, about half of his Fridays have limited or no appointments. He has a few events on about half of his Saturdays and Sundays.

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Asked about Mr. Ford’s schedule, his spokeswoman Ivana Yelich said his calendars do not reflect his full workload. “Premier Ford is one of the most accessible and hard-working politicians in the country and is often working late into the night returning phone calls from constituents.”

Mr. Ford’s calendars, which cover June 29, 2018, to March 15, 2019, contain fewer details over time. The first few days are full of information, including who accompanied the Premier to events, but the schedules soon have only his appointments, including who he met, time and location. In January and February, some entries consisted of only “Breakfast,” “Lunch,” “Dinner” and “Leafs Game,” with no information about who he met. Ms. Yelich declined to provide additional details. The calendars started to have more information in March.

Mr. Ford’s decision not to release his daily itinerary is out of line with the position of Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner.

“Schedules of publicly elected officials should be made publicly available,” Brian Beamish said in a statement. “Citizens cannot assess the activities of politicians or hold their elected representatives accountable if they do not have access to information about what their government is doing, including who officials are meeting with.”

Other Canadian politicians keep their calendars confidential, such as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and British Columbia’s John Horgan. Mr. Ford’s staff issue media advisories before events, a standard practice. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides a daily abridged itinerary, and Kathleen Wynne, Mr. Ford’s Liberal predecessor, did something similar. (Mr. Ford’s internal schedules released through the FOI process are more detailed.)

Graham White, a retired professor of political science at the University of Toronto, drew a link between the Premier’s decision not to release his timetables and his use of an internal video service, rather than regular media availabilities, to disseminate his messages.

“It’s kind of in keeping with the kind of media management that his regime is engaged in,” he said.

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Mr. Ford’s calendars provide a behind-the-scenes view of his first 8.5 months in office, including a controversial attempt to appoint Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner, a friend, as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. The move triggered months of controversy, including a legal fight by a rival candidate, OPP deputy commissioner Brad Blair, a probe by the province’s Integrity Commissioner and intense criticism from opposition politicians.

In early March, Supt. Taverner withdrew his name. That week, Mr. Ford’s calendar shows he met his chief of staff, Dean French, at Perkins Family Restaurant, his regular breakfast spot, two days in a row. On the second day, March 7, Mr. Ford also had an unusual appointment to attend a daily staff meeting at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and meet there with minister Sylvia Jones. (An FOI request for additional information yielded no records.)

One day later, on March 8, cabinet signed an executive order appointing Thomas Carrique, deputy chief of York Regional Police, as the new OPP commissioner.

The Premier’s calendars reveal meetings with a range of corporate leaders, including executives from Loblaws, Costco Canada, BMO, Scotiabank, pharmaceutical giant Roche and energy company Enbridge, in addition to heads of smaller companies. In addition, he has met with several developers and the Building Industry and Land Development Association.

Asked what the meetings were about, Ms. Yelich said: “Premier Ford meets with stakeholders in many different fields to discuss how the government can work together with industry to make Ontario open for business.”

The Premier’s schedule was especially busy in late November, when General Motors Co. revealed it would close its plant in Oshawa. The day before the announcement, Mr. Ford had a phone call with company executives. On the day the news broke, he spoke with Mr. Trudeau, the mayor of Oshawa and GM executives.

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According to his schedules, Mr. Ford had two meetings with Frank Klees, a former Ontario PC cabinet minister who is now a registered lobbyist, one in early July and the other in August. Mr. Ford had dinner with Mr. French and Chris Froggatt, who chaired his transition team and is head of a lobbying firm, in September.

Mr. Ford has had meetings and phone calls with Mr. Trudeau, and with U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft. Mr. Ford’s spokeswoman Ms. Yelich said he met with the ambassador to promote Ontario’s trade interests. In addition, he has had several phone calls and meetings with other premiers.

Mr. Ford has also met with former prime minister Jean Chrétien; Jordan Peterson, a University of Toronto psychology professor; Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association; and Rob Jamieson, president of the Ontario Provincial Police Association.

While most of Mr. Ford’s appointments take place at Queen’s Park, he has scheduled meetings, usually for breakfast, in Perkins’ unassuming dining room more than twice a month, on average, including with Mr. French, some cabinet ministers, health-care adviser Rueben Devlin and several Toronto city councillors.

Mr. Ford’s calendars reveal his staff keep an eye on his life outside the Premier’s Office. Nov. 17 has an entry marked “Protest at DECO,” a reference to an Ontario Coalition Against Poverty demonstration at his family’s printing business.

Asked if all the meetings in Mr. Ford’s calendar took place, Ms. Yelich said some could have remained after being cancelled on short notice.

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