Doug Ford, Ontario's premier-designate, met auto and steel industry representatives in Toronto on Wednesday to discuss "critical" NAFTA talks, U.S. tariffs and how the province can help keep businesses competitive.
Ford said his transition team is closely watching the trade talks between Canada and the U.S. because jobs in Ontario are at risk.
"The stakes are high," he told reporters.
"Thousands of jobs rely on the outcome of these talks. Thousands of Ontario families are counting on us to defend our interests."
On Thursday, Ford is set to meet with Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, also a Toronto MP, and Canada's ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, for a briefing on the NAFTA talks.
Ford said he'll be sharing the concerns of industry representatives he heard from today.
"We had a very productive discussion on how the tariffs will impact each and every one of them," Ford said.
Amid the tense talks over the future of the free trade agreement, the U.S. announced last month it's applying tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum. Canada is countering the move by imposing duties of up to $16.6 billion worth of U.S. products.
Name-calling not acceptable 'whatsoever'
Ford also took aim at U.S. President Donald Trump, saying the name calling coming from Washington, via Twitter, "in these critical stages" is not acceptable "whatsoever."
Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "weak and dishonest" after the G7 summit in Quebec on Sunday, apparently angered over comments Trudeau made during a news conference when he objected to the American tariffs.
"I think when it comes to the president, he's protecting the United States. Our job, my job personally, is to protect every single job in Ontario that is affected more than any other province," Ford said.
"This is a lot higher than name-calling. This is about two great nations that live and work side-by-side."
Ford repeated the Ontario government will stand "shoulder-to-shoulder" with Trudeau's government on international interests that affect the province and country.
Ford focusing on tax cuts
The incoming premier also vowed his government will encourage business competitiveness by taking a hard look at some 380,000 regulations that he says govern Ontario businesses.
But despite saying he'll stand together with the federal government on the trade relations with the U.S., Ford has said he plans to launch legal action against the federal carbon tax.
He has also promised to lower corporate taxes, reduce hydro rates by 12 per cent, get rid of the cap-and-trade system.
Asked about his relationship with the federal government, Ford responded:
"Are we going to have some differences internally within the family per se? I'm sure we'll have a few bumps. But when it comes to international trade and working with the United States and Mexico, make no mistake about it, we're going to stand side by side," he told a reporter. "As for your comment about the carbon tax, we have to be competitive."
Industry representatives were pleased to hear that, he said.
"They're confident that we're going to create an environment unlike we're ever seen before in this entire province, making sure we start being competitive, right off the hop."
The Ontario Progressive Conservatives under Ford won a majority of 76 seats in the provincial election last Thursday.