It appears some Ontario Progressive Conservatives are expressing concern about the potential candidacy of Doug Ford and how the controversial Toronto city councillor may impact Tory Leader Tim Hudak's chances to become premier.
Doug Ford, a perpetual defender of his brother, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, hasn't been shy about his interest in making the leap to provincial politics.
In fact, he's already announced he won't be running again for a spot on council and recently told reporters he "absolutely" has Hudak's support, should he decide to go provincial.
But with an election expected as early as this spring, it appears some Tories are getting cold feet.
A conference call of 300 Tory riding association presidents was held on Wednesday and there was some anxiety about the man they call DoFo, according to the Toronto Star's Robert Benzie.
"It seems this rumour he will run for us has been around forever," said one riding association member. "Either he's our candidate and we have to take responsibility for what he says, or he's not and we can move on."
PC president Richard Ciano reportedly said that Doug Ford hasn't requested to be a candidate and reminded those on the call that the riding association of Etobicoke North hasn't triggered a nomination meeting yet.
Those sentiments are not unlike what Hudak and others have said lately when asked about Doug Ford's rumoured candidacy.
But Etobicoke North is one of just a handful of ridings without a declared Tory candidate.
And Doug Ford believes that means PCs are just waiting for him to make it official.
"Let me simplify it: If the PCs didn't want me, they wouldn't be holding my riding – the only riding, I think, in Ontario," he told The Globe and Mail's Ann Hui earlier this month. "They haven't put a candidate in there. There must be a reason."
There was a time, of course, when Doug Ford was seen as a star candidate for Hudak's crew. He was reportedly approached to run for the party in 2011, but sat it out.
And last spring, before anyone heard of a video of Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, Hudak said he was "excited" by the prospect of Doug Ford joining his team.
But there's evidence that things have changed.
Though Hudak hasn't ruled out that Doug Ford will run, it's clear he is tired of talking about it.
The Ontario PC leader recently dodged questions about his relationship to the Ford brothers.
"I just feel like I've spent too much breath talking about the mayor of Toronto when I want to be talking about what people want me to talk about, and that's: How do we get our economy moving again?" he told The Globe.
There have been a number of controversies surrounding Doug Ford that could doom his potential candidacy.
An investigative report last spring by The Globe and Mail alleged Doug Ford sold hashish in Etobicoke as a young man. The councillor denied he was a drug dealer.
In the weeks before Christmas, Doug Ford was also caught on camera handing out $20 bills at a Toronto public housing building, leading some to suggest he was trying to buy votes.
And, after a video was released showing an inebriated Rob Ford swearing in Jamaican patois at a fast-food restaurant, Doug Ford emphatically told reporters his brother was still on the wagon. Hours later, Rob Ford admitted he did, in fact, drink alcohol before the video was recorded.
Such episodes are prompting warnings to Hudak that the risks involved in a Doug Ford candidacy are not worth the potential reward of one more Toronto seat.
"By forcefully distancing himself from someone like Doug Ford, Hudak would, by comparison, make himself seem more moderate and palatable to the centrist voters he actually needs to win the next election," Grenier wrote. "By not ruling out the possibility of a Doug Ford candidacy, Hudak instead appears to be lacking good judgment."
But Rob Ford believes his brother is on the fast-track to bigger things, recently telling Newstalk 1010 he could be "the next MPP for Etobicoke North in a few months."
And, in due time, Rob Ford thinks his brother will land another title.
"Doug will be provincial, he will be premier someday," Rob Ford told a Toronto radio show.
With previous files
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