Questions over license plate fiasco turn Premier's smile into scowl

Doug Ford

Premier Doug Ford was reunited with the Legislative media gallery on Monday, only to lash out at reporters for asking questions about his government's license plate revamp fiasco.

Ford was at a resource industry trade show in downtown Toronto on Monday.

He was there to announce new agreements have been signed with two Indigenous communities.

They could be a major milestone in the Ford government's plan to build a highway to northern Ontario's Ring of Fire mineral mining region.

After making speeches with leaders of the Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation, the Premier took questions from the media gallery for the first time in several weeks.

Ford was asked about the ongoing labour dispute between his government and Ontario's unionized teachers.

He was also questioned on why his government did not immediately release the results of public consultations that have become a flashpoint in the debate over the Ontario PC's handling of the Education file.

That's when a nerve was struck.

Ford blasted a reporter when he was asked about what it was that made Ontario's new but defective license plates -- designed in part by the Premier's office -- so difficult to see at night.

"You've got to be kidding me ... We've given the press release (last) Friday," Ford scolded.

"It's being corrected ... We're going to have good license plates."

Ford slammed 'the media' for focusing on 'little things' from a 'downtown Toronto bubble.'

While Ford did field several questions about the Ring of Fire project and the Indigenous communities that stand to benefit from it, the Premier argued that the highway project should have been the focus of the media gallery's questions.

When politicians or officials open the floor to questions from accredited media outlets, it is common and in most cases expected that journalists will ask questions about matters that are not necessarily related to the announcement that preceeded it.

Ford argued that questions about the faulty license plates were 'disrespectful' to First Nations communities in northern Ontario that could be affected by a major government infrastructure project in their communities.

Last year, the Ford government scrapped three agreements with local Indigenous leaders, including those with the Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation.

The Premier wanted to renegotiate those deals.

Critics argue that move brought further unnecessary delays upon the project.

The Ring of Fire region holds some of the world's richest deposits of chromite, nickel, copper and platinum.

Some estimates place the market value at up to $60 billion.

(with files from The Canadian Press)