Ford government, the “mystery” of Ministers’ mobile phones

TORONTO – “Shadows” continue to grow over Doug Ford’s government: according to a journalistic investigation by Global News, in fact, several provincial ministers had large periods of inactivity on their official devices (i.e. “government” cell phones) when decisions were being made criticisms. 

The documents cited by Global News, relating to certain particularly “intense” periods for the Ontario government, show that the then ministers of Education, Finance, Health, Housing and Transportation did not make telephone calls or at all they used government-provided devices very little during crucial moments of their ministries.

One minister made zero phone calls on his government-issued device during a one-month period, while four others made between 1 and 20 minutes of phone calls from their work devices. All five ministers responded that in-person meetings and other forms of communication, such as Microsoft Teams, are behind the lack of calls.

Going into detail, Sylvia Jones, who serves as both Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister, in January 2023, Jones did not make a single call from her government mobile phone. At the time, Jones announced sweeping changes to the way health care is delivered in Ontario and approached private, for-profit clinics about taking on a larger role.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce also rarely used his official phone while working on key negotiations with education workers and during the difficult strike in November 2022: the minister’s cell phone shows a total of one minute of phone calls made while he was engaged in union negotiations and press conferences almost daily. A spokesperson for Lecce claimed that the lack of additional call minutes on the minister’s phone was a result of the fact that conversations with striking education workers were carried out via a negotiator and many briefings took place in person.

A few months later, in March 2023, documents show that Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy made just two minutes of phone calls while he was finalizing Ontario’s budget. Bethlenfalvy’s office said the lack of calls stems from budget discussions taking place in person or via a government video link.

Former Housing Minister Steve Clark and former Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney each made 20 minutes of calls in a single month: Clark, in November 2022, when he announced controversial changes to Ontario’s Greenbelt; Mulroney, in April 2023, when the Province admitted a series of problems with the “Eglinton LRT”.

Global News had previously reported four months in which Ford – who regularly gives out his mobile number as he attends various events as prime minister – had made no calls to his work phone. Officials have admitted the prime minister is using his personal phone for work, but argue that separating personal calls from work would be too arduous and say the prime minister has not given staff access to his phone. Meanwhile, Global News is in the midst of an appeal to access government-related calls made by Ford on his personal phone.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash