No one in Ontario Premier Doug Ford's 76-member Progressive Conservative caucus would say if they believe Ford should apologize for posing in a photo with a white nationalist who participated in a neo-Nazi podcast, a National Observer survey has revealed.
On Sept. 22, Faith Goldy, a white nationalist who is running to be mayor of Toronto, tweeted a photo taken with the premier and some of her own campaign supporters, during the annual Ford Fest barbeque.
Goldy was fired from the far-right media website, The Rebel, in August 2017 after she praised other white nationalists at the deadly Charlottesville neo-Nazi protest and appeared on a podcast affiliated with a neo-Nazi website.
In the days that followed the Sept. 22 photo, opposition MPPs asked Ford repeatedly whether he would directly disavow Goldy. But the premier refused, stating time and again that he denouced hate and has "zero tolerance" for hate speech.
After three days of furor from members of the opposition and mounting pressure from anti-hate and religious organizations, the premier denounced hate speech in a tweet — saying he won’t tolerate it from anyone, including Faith Goldy:
“I have been clear. I condemn hate speech, anti-Semitism and racism in all forms — be it from Faith Goldy or anyone else,” the premier tweeted.
Just after the Sept. 26 tweet emerged, National Observer emailed all 76 members of the Tory government asking them the following three questions:
Do you personally denounce Faith Goldy and any attempted association with Ford’s Progressive Conservative government?
Do you believe the premier should apologize for posing for a photo with her?
Do you believe that white nationalism or supremacists have a place or are welcome in the Progressive Conservative party?
Only six members responded, including the premier's spokesman, who sent a link to the tweet. Four emails bounced back with a message saying that the content of National Observer's questions were "denied by policy." National Observer placed calls and left voicemails for those four MPPs.
The other five responses all included a link to Ford's tweet, which Goldy responded to by saying "Proud to stand up for all Canadians alongside ya, Doug!"
A spokesman for Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board, responded in an email that the minister "stands with Premier Ford and our government for the people in condemning hate speech, anti-Semitism and racism in all forms — be it from Faith Goldy or anyone else." This message ended with a link to the premier's tweet.
In another email, a spokesman for Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility wrote that the minister fully supports the premier, and I ask that (National Observer) refer to the premier’s recent tweet, if you haven’t already seen it."
Stephen Crawford, MPP for Oakville, "believes that hate speech language which targets particular groups or individuals is inappropriate and unacceptable. He joins the premier in his denunciation of hate speech and supports our government’s zero tolerance for such language," wrote his executive assistant in an email.
"There is no place in the Ontario PC Party for racism or hate," the email added.
On behalf of Gila Martow, MPP for Thornhill, a spokesman referenced the premier's words in the legislature and linked to his tweet, adding that Ford Fest was "one of the most diverse events the PC Party has hosted with over 7,000 people in attendance," and that the premier "took photos with everyone who wanted one in a lineup that went around the corner."
"MPP Martow has been a vocal voice in the Jewish community for many years and stands stands with the premier," the email added.
A spokeswoman for Lindsey Park, MPP for Durham, said she would refer National Observer "directly to the premier's public response concerning this topic," and linked to Ford's tweet.
Twenty-four hours after getting the questions, the remaining 70 MPPs in Ford's caucus still hadn't responded.
'We’re asking Mr. Ford to take a stand'
Members of Ontario's opposition parties weren't impressed.
NDP Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath said that the premier's tweet "falls short for many in Ontario."
"We’re asking Mr. Ford to take a stand: tell people that he considers Faith Goldy’s views to be vile racism, that he is unequivocally not endorsing her campaign for mayor of Toronto, and that her use of his name in a robocall is wrong, and has to stop," Horwath said, in a statement on Thursday.
We’re asking Mr. Ford to take a stand: tell people that he considers Faith Goldy’s views to be vile racism, that he is unequivocally not endorsing her campaign for mayor of Toronto, and that her use of his name in a robocall is wrong, and has to stop. 3/3 #ONpoli— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) September 26, 2018
Liberal MPP John Fraser agreed that members of the public were concerned about Ford's failure to denounce Goldy.
"They’re calling on the premier to disassociate himself from Faith Goldy, a known white supremacist," Fraser said in the Ontario legislature during the daily question period.
"I know the premier sent out a tweet last night denouncing hate speech, even if coming from Faith Goldy. Mr. Speaker, that is not enough. It’s not enough for those people who are truly frightened by seeing their premier standing shoulder to shoulder with a white supremacist."
On Wednesday, New Democrat MPP Laura Mae Lindo had urged the government to apologize and condemn Goldy.
“We have to do better. The people need the government to do better. There is a candidate, Ms. Goldy, who represents unvarnished hateful polarizing views about race and diversity that has appeared in at least two photos with the premier,” said Lindo, referring to an earlier picture of the two that also surfaced online.
“The premier won’t denounce Faith Goldy specifically, or apologize for taking these photos. Will the minister responsible for anti-racism initiatives in this government denounce Ms Goldy’s campaign and apologize on behalf of the government for the seeming endorsement — whether it was an intentional endorsement or not,” asked Lindo. The question was directed to Michael Tibollo, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, as Ford was not in the legislature at the time.
Tibollo, who is in-charge of the anti-racism file, echoed that both he and the premier have repeatedly said “there is no place for racism in this province. We’ve been very, very clear that this is an inclusive province."
“And we will work as a government to ensure that those policies are continued and they are put into effect ... so that the government and the entire province is rid of racism,” he said.
Ford said Monday that his photo was taken with thousands of people at Ford Fest, indicating he wasn't familiar with her. In June 2017, Ford appeared at a The Rebel Live series, which featured him, Goldy — who has uttered what are referred to as the 14 words, "we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children" — and other white nationalists including Gavin McInnes, who founded the Proud Boys.