Conservative MP Patrick Brown will not resign his federal seat as he pursues the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.
The 36-year-old, who has represented the riding of Barrie since 2006, announced his leadership bid Sunday. Brown vowed to be a breath of fresh air for a party that has lost four straight elections and said he intends to reach out to youth and new Canadians to expand the PCs' tent.
"Before we can become the party we need to be, we need a clean break from the party we were," he told supporters in Barrie.
Some believed Brown would give up his job in Ottawa — and force Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call another byelection this year — but the backbencher will continue sitting as an MP while campaigning for the next eight months. Ontario PCs will choose a new leader in May.
Brown told the Barrie Examiner there is no precedent that an MP must give up their seat when pursuing the leadership of a provincial political party and vowed to balance his work in Ottawa with his campaign.
"I take my job seriously as a Member of Parliament," he told the newspaper. "We've certainly been able to continue our level of activity in Barrie."
Brown told reporters he would resign his federal seat if he wins the leadership and hinted a PC MPP would step down so that he could run in a provincial byelection, The Toronto Star reports.
Brown also said federal Tories have been "very supportive" of the move, though Harper's director of communications told The Star the expectation is that Brown (and any other potential candidates in the federal caucus) keep up with all their parliamentary responsibilities.
Some of Brown's constituents have already expressed concern the MP can do just that, according to CTV News Barrie.
"I think he's going to have a tough job because he’s got a lot of work to do as our representative for this area," said one constituent. "I hope that doesn’t take away from his job here."
Meanwhile, Ontario Liberals wasted little time linking Brown to former Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak, who pledged in the last provincial election to slash 100,000 public sector jobs in four years.
A Liberal staffer tweeted a photo of Brown shaking Hudak's hand shortly after he unveiled his doomed Million Jobs Plan.
Brown later retweeted this response from a former PC candidate.
PC MPPs Christine Elliott, Vic Fedeli and Monte McNaughton have all entered the race, with Lisa MacLeod also expected to join the fray.
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt has also been rumoured to be interested in running but was tight-lipped when asked about those rumours this summer.
Do you think an MP should have to give up their seat once they have declared leadership ambitions at the provincial level? Tell us in the comments.
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With files from The Canadian Press