POLITICS
10/26/2011 01:04 EDT | Updated 12/26/2011 05:12 EST

Klees Defends Decision To Run For Ontario Speaker

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Toronto-area Tory MPP Frank Klees is dismissing suggestions he is hurting his party by running for Speaker of the Ontario legislature.

Klees, one of the most experienced MPPs in Ontario and an erstwhile Tory leadership candidate, made headlines Tuesday when it emerged he was not to be part of Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak's shadow cabinet.

Instead, Klees is running for Speaker of the house, a decision that has great significance given the governing Liberals are one seat shy of a majority. If Klees wins, the Tories and the NDP will lose their majority 54 seats, ending up with 53 seats between them, the same as the Liberals.

The decision is a blow to Hudak, who had said he didn't want any of his MPPs to run for the Speaker's chair.

"Tim has his own reasons for having made the decisions that he made. I have the reasons for my decisions," said Klees, who represents the Newmarket-Aurora riding, in an interview with CBC's Metro Morning.

Hudak said Tuesday he was "surprised and disappointed" at Klees's decision, adding he offered him two prominent critic portfolios to keep him in the opposition benches but was turned down.

"It's not a matter of simply doing what the leader is asking you to do. I am an independently elected member of the legislature," Klees said.

"I came to the conclusion that my 16 years of experience in the legislature, my knowledge of parliamentary procedure, my experience as a cabinet minister and chief government whip and house leader will serve my fellow MPPs and the legislature well if entrusted with that responsibility."

Klees acknowledged that by convention, the Speaker votes with the government on confidence motions in the event of a tied vote, but said "that is not the rule."

He said he has made it "very clear" to other MPPs that if he is elected speaker, his vote in the event of a tie would be cast "on the basis of what I believe is in the best interest of Ontario."

The legislature votes for the speaker through a secret ballot.