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250 United Church leaders have a message for Doug Ford

They're urging the new Ontario premier to remember those in need as he carries out promised economic reform.

By Emma Prestwich

When Doug Ford was campaigning to be the leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservative party earlier this year, he vowed to ensure that the church would have a voice.

Now that he's the province's premier, dozens of United Church ministers want him to follow through. They’ve added their names to a letter that calls on him not to neglect the “poor and marginalized” as he carries out promised economic reform.

“It is our experience that the weakest of our society are the most vulnerable to any change, even change that is warranted,” it reads.

In the letter, the ministers also ask the premier to reconsider his stances on refugees, supervised drug injection sites, and the province’s sex-ed curriculum.

Ontario United Church ministers behind a letter to Premier Doug Ford are inviting people to share these graphics. (Credit: OntarioUCCMinisters.org)

“We appreciate your desire to unify all Ontarians in a vision of prosperity,” it reads.

“We respectfully ask that this vision include care of the vulnerable, affordable housing, support for refugees, quality healthcare, comprehensive sexual education in our schools, climate care, and access to higher education for all.”

Rev. Trisha Elliott, a minister at Southminster United in Ottawa and a frequent Observer contributor, had the idea to send a letter to the premier. 

“I feel that the United Church has a lot to say on some of the issues that Premier Ford raised during his campaign,” she said.

“I think we see a lot of pain and struggle in our everyday work and we wanted to be very clear in informing Ford that much of his platform was centred around economy and economics, and that we want to keep these [marginalized] people in mind as we make decisions around those things.” 

“I feel that the United Church has a lot to say on some of the issues that Premier Ford raised during his campaign.”

Elliott started a Facebook group to ask other ministers for their input, and the group quickly grew as more people contributed ideas. A number of people were involved in writing the letter.

At the time of publishing, more than 250 ministers and other United Church ministry staff had signed it, expressing interest in a meeting with Ford and their local members of provincial parliament (MPPs). 

Rev. Cheri DiNovo, minister at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church in Toronto and a former New Democratic Party MPP, said last week that she would hand-deliver it to the premier. 

"One good fortune I have is I can walk into [the Ontario legislature] anytime and walk into an office anytime, which not everybody can do," she said. 

But those behind the effort were careful to stress that their point of view doesn't represent that of the whole organization, their congregations or ministries.  

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