Ford’s summer tour makes frequent stops at PC-linked businesses
Since embarking on his summer tour in July, Premier Doug Ford has stopped at businesses big and small across the province — taking pictures, shaking hands and holding press conferences.
While the tour has been decried as a “campaign style” jaunt around the province by opposition leaders, Ford has said it’s “an important opportunity to hear directly from the folks on how we can support them.”
Ford’s itineraries — provided to reporters by his office — show he visited at least 40 businesses and organizations since the start of his tour, 27 per cent of which have ties to the PC party’s coffers.
According to Queen’s Park Today’s analysis of fundraising contributions published by Elections Ontario, nine of the businesses and organizations visited by the premier have owners, founders, executives or board members who have contributed to the PC Party and its candidates. Two more businesses gave money directly to the PCs prior to the December 2016 ban on corporate and union donations.
Ford’s spokesperson Ivana Yelich said it’s no surprise small business owners want to back a government that is striving to make their lives easier.
“Getting out across the province to thank small business owners and meet salt of the earth Ontarians — hearing their stories, and learning from them — is an important part of being premier,” Yelich told Queen’s Park Today in an email.
Here are the PC donor-linked companies Ford has visited this hot pandemic summer:
Challenger Motor Freight
Dan Einwechter, owner of the Cambridge-based transportation and logistics company, has donated to the PCs several times over the last five years, including $1,000 this year and $1,600, the maximum allowable donation, in 2019.
Prior to the provincial ban on corporate donations, Challenger Motor Freight gave $1,250 to the PCs in 2016 (it also forked out $1,885 to the Liberals in prior years). The premier has made announcements with the trucking company in the past.
On August 20, Ford attended the ground-breaking ceremony for a new automotive innovation park at Oro Station.
Oro Station’s managing partner Geoffrey Campbell donated $1,786 to the PC Party and its local riding associations in 2019, including $665 for Jill Dunlop‘s Simcoe North and $212 for Doug Downey‘s Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte. Both ministers were in tow for Ford’s announcement. (Two PC ministers were also at the park last year to highlight the unlocking of the vacant lot.)
Toronto MicroElectronics Inc.
On July 21, Ford visited this Mississauga-based firm, whose president is Quang Nguyen.
In recent years, an individual with the same name donated over $2,500 to PC candidates, including a $1,222 contribution to Ford’s 2018 leadership bid, $600 to now-MPP Natalia Kusendova and $700 to the PC association in Etobicoke—Lakeshore, the riding currently repped by Christine Hogarth.
In June, Tory MPP Deepak Anand also gave a shout-out in the house to a Quang Nguyen for their efforts to collect PPE for local hospitals, long-term care centres and community organizations, and for raising funds for local food banks in Mississauga and Brampton.
Sun-Brite Foods Inc.
One of Ford’s early stops was at the company’s cannery near Leamington, spurring criticism from Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner.
Sun-Brite’s president and founder Onorio “Henry” Iacobelli and his wife Lina donated a total of $4,922 to the PCs in 2018 and 2019. Onorio also donated $1,000 to deputy premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott‘s 2018 leadership bid.
“This is a clear case of ‘follow the money.’ Doug Ford is rewarding not just a PC donor, but a company that was fined $287,500 under water protection laws that the Conservatives have since weakened,” Schreiner said in a statement July 16.
More donor stops:
Canarm Ltd. — August 21
David Beatty, the CEO of Canarm — which manufactures “air moving, lighting and related environmental products” in Brockville — has donated to the PC party four times amid the 2014 and 2018 election campaigns.
In 2018, Beatty gave $1,000 to now-Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark‘s campaign as well as $500 to the party.
CanAmerican Stone Spreader — August 4
Robert Sinke, vice-president of the family-owned St. Catharines company, donated $1,000 to the PCs during the Niagara West byelection in 2016.
Canada Rubber Group Inc. — July 28
Kevin Ferguson, president of Brockville-based Canada Rubber Group, is listed on Ontario Election’s website as contributing $150 to the PCs in 2018.
Waterloo Brewing Company — July 17
Ford, a teetotaller who, like many politicians, has a penchant for supporting craft breweries, dropped by Waterloo Brewing last month to pour the first Covid-era pint to be served indoors in the region.
In 2014, George Croft, president and CEO of the brewery, made a small donation of $164 to the PC’s Kitchener-Waterloo riding association.
Apotex and Molson Coors Brewing Company — August 25
Founded by the late Barry Sherman, Apotex pharmaceutical company has donated more than $16,000 to both the PCs and Liberals in years before corporations were banned from padding party coffers.
Molson Coors also gave to the three major Ontario parties. The Conservatives raked in over $20,000.
Niagara Christian Gleaners — August 4
According to the non-profit’s website, Niagara Christian Gleaners provides daily meals to 17,000 people around the world by collecting fresh produce that is destined for landfills and transforming it into dried fruit and vegetable mixtures.
Two members of the NCG’s board of directors, Ed Feenstra and Klaas Zeldenrust, have made small contributions to the PCs. In 2018, Zeldenrust gave $200 to the party and in 2015, Feenstra donated $110 to now-Labour Minister Monte McNaughton‘s leadership bid.
Wayne Petrozzi, professor emeritus of politics from Ryerson University, suggested the premier’s summer tour is an “attempt to capitalize on his increase in polling figures” and could “candy coat” over more serious issues, such as the Covid crisis in long-term care.
If Ontarians knew that a portion of the businesses Ford is being photographed at on his summer tour were owned by PC donors, Petrozzi said they would view the stops with a “degree of cynicism, as same old, same old.”
“The problem is … when it’s not always made clear,” he added.
Last summer, Ford came under fire when reporting by Queen’s Park Today first revealed a number of the businesses he toured with the PC caucus bureau’s Ontario News Now cameras belonged to PC donors. Ontario News Now has since stopped producing that style of video.