Ontario Premier Doug Ford held a one-on-one meeting with Jordan Peterson a week after the controversial university professor publicly urged Ford to abolish the province’s human rights commission, CBC News has learned.
The meeting was revealed in Ford’s appointment calendar for October and November, obtained through a freedom of information request. CBC News made the request because Ford is not providing the media with his daily public itinerary, breaking from the practice of previous premiers.
CBC News cannot find any record of Ford or Peterson publicly mentioning that their Oct. 18 meeting took place.
Ford tweeted about several of his other private meetings around that date: with Dianne Martin, CEO of the Registered Practical Nurses Association, with Susan Le Jeune the British high commissioner to Canada, and with Tim Hudak, the former PC leader who is now CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association.
Ford met with Peterson “to discuss free speech on Ontario’s university and college campuses,” the premier’s press secretary said Friday in an email to CBC News.
The meeting followed this Oct. 10 tweet by Peterson, calling for the Human Rights Commission to be abolished.
Peterson, who has more than one million followers on Twitter, was reacting to the Ontario Human Rights Commission joining the legal challenge against the Ford government’s changes to the sex-ed curriculum.
He put out the tweet in response to an interview that Renu Mandhane, chief commissioner of the province’s human rights watchdog, did on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.
Peterson has gained international notoriety for his critique of what he calls “politically correct” limits to free speech. The Ford government ordered Ontario’s universities and colleges last summer to put in place policies by the end of 2018 guaranteeing free speech, or they would face funding cuts.
Peterson has previously spoken out against the work of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the federal Liberals’ move to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
“I know something about the way that totalitarian and authoritarian political states develop and I can’t help but think that I’m seeing a fair bit of that right now,” Peterson said in a lecture posted to his YouTube channel, which has 1.8 million subscribers.
Ford’s calendar for October and November shows no one-on-one meetings with any other Ontario university professors. Peterson and his publicity firm did not respond to a request for an interview or to emailed questions about the meeting.
The appointment schedule also unveils another piece in the puzzle about Ford’s request for a customized van, a controversy that erupted in December following the appointment of Ford’s friend Ron Taverner, a Toronto police superintendent, to be the next OPP commissioner.
OPP deputy commissioner Brad Blair alleges that Ford’s chief of staff Dean French told a provincial police officer to obtain a “camper-van type vehicle” for the premier, have it modified by a specific company, and keep the costs off the books.
The calendar shows the premier travelled to Mississauga on Nov. 5 for an appointment entitled “OPP Car Meeting” at a business called A1 Mobility, which adapts vehicles for accessibility.
“The premier went to discuss options for a used OPP vehicle,” said press secretary Ivana Yelich in an email. “It’s not uncommon or inappropriate for a premier to ask for special accommodations for his/her vehicle.”
The allegation that Ford’s chief of staff asked for the cost of the vehicle to be kept off the books is “categorically false,” said Yelich.
The calendar also shows that Ford had lunch with Taverner on Oct. 9, several weeks before he was named to lead the OPP. The province’s integrity commissioner is investigating how Taverner got the job, as he did not meet the original qualifications.
Blair, who made the allegations about the camper van, wants a court to force Ontario’s ombudsman to investigate Taverner’s appointment as well. Blair’s lawyer Julian Falconer could not be reached for comment.
Ford’s calendar shows a flurry of activity around GM Canada’s Nov. 26 announcement that it intends to cease production at its Oshawa plant by the end of this year.
In addition to phone calls with the CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, the day before and day of the announcement, Ford got on the phone with the presidents and CEOs of Ford, Honda and Toyota the following day.
Cannabis legalization was another issue that Ford was focused on in October and November. He had a meeting entitled “Illegal Dispensaries” on the afternoon of Oct. 17, the day that recreational cannabis became legal in Canada.
It included representatives for the attorney general, the finance minister, the community safety minister and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
On Oct. 26, with delivery delays plaguing the province’s online cannabis retailer, Ford spoke on a call with Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, the CEO of the Ontario Cannabis Store, and the CEO of Domain Logistics. It is the company managing the province’s secret cannabis warehouse, although neither the government, the cannabis agency, nor the company has publicly confirmed that.
Then in late November, before revealing the province’s plans to allow only 25 cannabis retail outlets in the first phase of storefronts, Ford was given two briefings on cannabis. One was labelled “high priority” and another labelled “restricted attendance.”
Asked for more details, Ford’s press secretary said the briefings were about “the general direction of the government’s cannabis policy.”
Other entries in Ford’s calendar show the following meetings:
- Neil Bruce, CEO of SNC Lavalin and William Pristanski, registered lobbyist for the company (Oct. 29).
- Hazel McCallion, former mayor of Mississauga (Nov. 16).
- Patrick Lilly, CEO, Ring of Fire General Partner (Nov. 22).
- Toronto Coun. Michael Thompson and Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek (Nov. 28).
Ford’s press secretary was asked to describe the topics of these meetings, but did not respond.