Helena Jaczek, former Ontario health minister, to seek Liberal nomination in Markham-Stouffville

Former Ontario health minister Helena Jaczek to seek Liberal nomination in Markham-Stouffville
ABOVE: Former Ontario Liberal health minister Helena Jaczek will be seeking the federal nomination in Markham-Stouffville, presenting a challenge for former federal minister Jane Philpott who is running as an independent.

Voters in Markham-Stouffville could have a choice between two female doctors when they cast their ballots this fall.

Global News has learned Helena Jaczek, the former Ontario Liberal health minister, will seek the nomination to run for the federal Liberals against Jane Philpott, the former president of the Treasury Board and current MP for the riding, who is running as an independent after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked her out of caucus for raising concerns during the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

READ MORE: ‘I will be truly free’ — Wilson-Raybould, Philpott to run as Independents in the fall election

Craig Hughson, who will serve as Jaczek’s campaign manager if she wins the nomination, confirmed the plans to Global News on Tuesday.

“She is going to seek the nomination,” he said.

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“Helena has started reaching out to supporters in Markham-Stouffville.”

Jaczek was the Ontario Liberal MPP for Oak Ridges—Markham from 2007 until she lost her seat in the 2018 provincial election.

Philpott won the seat as a Liberal MP in 2015 but now sits as an independent.

She announced earlier this year she also plans to run for re-election as an independent in the riding.

WATCH BELOW: Philpott on why she’s running as an Independent, not a Green

Philpott on why she’s running as an Independent, not a Green
Philpott on why she’s running as an Independent, not a Green

Philpott became a prominent voice in the SNC-Lavalin scandal after she spoke out against the government for what she described as the failure to take seriously enough the allegations of inappropriate political interference in the decision not to grant the firm a deferred prosecution agreement.

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Jody Wilson-Raybould alleged she faced months of inappropriate pressure from top government officials, including Trudeau, over her decision not to override the decision by the director of public prosecutions not to cut the firm a deal to avoid trial for allegedly bribing the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in order to get contracts over the course of roughly a decade.

Philpott said in an interview in March that, “there’s much more to the story that needs to be told” but that “there’s been an attempt to shut down the story.”

But less than a month later, Trudeau kicked both her and Wilson-Raybould out of the Liberal caucus and barred them from running for the party this fall.

“Obviously I’m not going to make anything a personal issue. I have a great deal of respect for Jane Philpott,” said Jaczek in an interview with Global News when asked about the scandal and how she will address questions about Trudeau’s treatment of his former colleagues.

“She’s made a decision that obviously was important to her and that’s the way it is.”

READ MORE: 10 former health ministers urge Ontario government to reverse ‘drastic’ cuts

Jaczek was named as provincial health minister in February 2018 by Kathleen Wynne, the former Ontario Liberal premier.

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Prior to that, Jaczek has served as the minister of community and social services from June 2014 to February 2018.

During her previous terms in office, she held a variety of roles as parliamentary assistant to several ministers and sat on a number of committees.

Just last month though, Jaczek was quoted by the Toronto Star on June 3 as saying she had no interest in running federally.

“I must say I was surprised because no one has formally in any way approached me,” Jaczek said when asked by the Star about polling by an unknown source that asked constituents in the riding how they felt about her.

“I think it must be an entirely exploratory effort because I haven’t been approached in any way. People idly asked … I just say, ‘you never say never in politics’ but it’s not where my interests have been.”In that interview, she also raised concerns about whether running a strong Liberal candidate against Philpott in the Markham-Stouffville riding would split the vote and potentially hand victory to the Conservatives.Jaczek told Global News she changed her mind after the Ontario Liberal annual general meeting on June 7, 8 and 9.“Let’s put it this way: when I spoke to the Toronto Star, it was actually before our provincial AGM [annual general meeting],” she said.“A lot of people who obviously have federal connections as well as provincial connections talked to me about it and many of them urged me to run. Since then, former constituents have talked to me about it and I’ve done a lot of thinking so I came to the conclusion this last weekend. I met with Minister Navdeep Bains because he called me and wanted to sit down and have a chat.”She added, “that’s essentially when things came together.”