TORONTO – Four people are vying to take over the reins of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives, a party that aims to topple the long-governing Liberals in the province’s spring election. Here is a glance at the contenders in the leadership contest that ends with the announcement of a winner on Saturday:
Of the four candidates in the race, Elliott is the only one accustomed to life in the provincial legislature.
She served as a member of provincial parliament from 2006 to 2015, representing the riding of Whitby-Oshawa. She’s also a veteran of past leadership contests, having mounted two unsuccessful bids to helm the party. Her last effort came in 2015 when she lost to Patrick Brown, the man whose abrupt resignation in January triggered the current contest.
Before mounting this latest bid, Elliott worked as patient ombudsman for the province, a position that’s left her open to critiques that she accepted a patronage appointment from Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne. Elliott has noted she was selected by an independent panel and was proud of her work in the position.
The 62-year-old – who is also the widow of long-time former federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty – has positioned herself as the only candidate capable of bringing experienced leadership to the party and mounting a credible challenge to Wynne in the June election. She is viewed as a more moderate conservative than some of her rivals, but has joined them in voicing opposition to a proposed carbon tax that was one of the cornerstones of Brown’s policy legacy.
Quote: “I think it’s really important that we remember why we’re all here. We all have to come together when this is all over because the star target here is Kathleen Wynne, not each other.”
VIDEO: Christine Elliott is in the race, but will her most recent job hurt her?
His political resume boasts one term as a Toronto city councillor, but Ford arguably has the highest name recognition and strongest branding of all the candidates in the race.
The pugnacious 53-year-old built that brand between 2010 and 2014 while working alongside his notorious late brother Rob, whose scandal-plagued mayoralty of Toronto made him a household name across Canada. Doug Ford, who was the first candidate to announce his bid for the Tory leadership, has built his platform on the same populist themes that propelled his brother into office.
He’s campaigned on promises to eliminate government waste, root out corruption, and give voice to the grass roots of the party who he claims have been neglected both by the governing Liberals and the Conservative party establishment.
He has frequently touted his experience in the business world as a key asset. In the years before and after his time at city hall, he oversaw operations and spearheaded expansions at the family’s label-making business. Ford, who along with Elliott has led in various polls, has also positioned himself in line with social conservatives by voicing his opposition to abortion and saying he would allow all caucus members to vote with their conscience on policy decisions.
Quote: “I will allow MPPs to draft, bring forward, and debate any legislation that is important to them. The Liberals have set a dangerous and narrow-minded precedent both federally and provincially. I will never put members of my party in a position where they will have to compromise or deny their personal beliefs.”
VIDEO: Doug Ford brought his campaign to be the next leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives to Peterborough on Wednesday morning.
Her political career may be in its early stages, but Mulroney has had exposure to high public office since childhood. The daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney has referred to the political discussion that dominated dinner table conversation as she grew up on Sussex Drive. She even enlisted her father to help campaign on her behalf as the race entered the home stretch.
Prior to her leadership bid, however, the 43-year-old lawyer had spent little time in the public eye. She served instead as vice-president of Toronto-based BloombergSen Investment Partners, and used to work at a venture debt fund. She also co-founded the Shoebox Project for Shelters, which collects and distributes gifts to women who are homeless or at risk.
Mulroney was the only one of the candidates who had plans to take part in the June election prior to the leadership contest, having secured the Tory nomination to run in the riding of York-Simcoe.
During the campaign, which has seen her emerge as a socially moderate candidate with few concrete policy announcements, she has fended off attacks related to her perceived inexperience. She, in turn, has positioned herself as a fresh-faced candidate capable of bringing meaningful change to the party she hopes to lead.
Quote: “This election is just too important to jeopardize by playing politics. This isn’t the time to reach into the past. This certainly isn’t the time to be distracted by one person’s problems. This is the time to unite the party.”
VIDEO: Caroline Mulroney asks Patrick Brown to drop out of PC leadership race
Tanya Granic Allen
The parental rights activist and vocal social conservative was a surprise participant in the race, announcing plans to run days before the entry deadline and launching a crowdfunding campaign to help raise the requisite entry fee.
Since then, Granic Allen has emerged as a candidate of strongly held views that cater to the far right. She has openly criticized Brown and alleged he threw the party into disarray while betraying the interests of social conservatives.
Her most passionate positions are related to the Liberal sex education curriculum, which Granic Allen derides at every turn and contends is inappropriate for children. During her work with advocacy group Parents as First Educators, of which Granic Allen is president, she has frequently advocated for greater parental control over educational matters.
Granic Allen has also criticized some of the Liberals past green energy measures, saying she would cancel contracts and rip wind turbines out of the ground.
Quote: “We have to address the corruption in our party … The three of you have stood idly by as the party was run into the ground by Patrick Brown and his corruptive practices.”
VIDEO: Tanya Granic Allen least known PC leadership candidate, but has had biggest impact