Canadian populist Doug Ford sworn in as Ontario province premier

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is pictured as he speaks during his unofficial swearing in ceremony in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, June 29, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

TORONTO (Reuters) - Populist leader Doug Ford was sworn in as Ontario’s new premier on Friday, ending 15 years of Liberal rule in Canada’s most populous province, and he promised to drop a program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Ford and his Progressive Conservative party swept to power in Ontario’s parliamentary elections earlier this month with a vow to cut personal and corporate taxes. Ford, 53, is the brother of the late mayor of Toronto Rob Ford, who made headlines in 2013 when he admitted to smoking crack cocaine.

During his campaign Ford said he wanted to scrap Ontario’s cap-and-trade system designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and repeated the promise at Friday’s ceremony, a policy that is at odds with the Liberal party federal government. Ditching cap-and-trade is expected to ease the burden of businesses in the short-term, analysts have said.

In a public open-air event on the front steps of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly, Ford was sworn in as Ontario’s 26th premier. Ford, a businessman with little political experience, also said he would initiate a full audit of government spending.

With about a third of Canada’s population of 36 million, Ontario is the country’s economic engine and home to its biggest city, Toronto. It has one of the largest sub-sovereign debts in the world, at nearly C$350 billion ($272 billion) in March.

Relatively high power and labor costs have made it difficult for the province to win new investment.

“We will protect good jobs in Ontario ... we will protect our agriculture, manufacturing and resource industries,” Ford said in a speech in which he also vowed to “open Ontario for business and “open Ontario for investment and trade.”

Reporting by Danya Hajjaji; editing by Denny Thomas and Grant McCool