Doug Holyday confirmed Thursday he has agreed to run for the Tories in Etobicoke-Lakeshore Aug. 1.
"I think for the Conservatives to get a seat in Toronto would be a big leg up on the full election when it comes," Holyday told reporters at city hall.
"I think Toronto deserves a fiscally responsible voice, and I think I can provide that."
A beaming PC Leader Tim Hudak first made the announcement in Scarborough, the site of another byelection.
"I'm thrilled that someone with the calibre of Doug Holyday, with experience balancing budgets, wants to run for us," said Hudak.
The Conservatives haven't elected anyone in Toronto since 1999, and Holyday could be a "game changer," predicted Hudak.
"He's the kind of guy that brought incredible skills to bear to get the books back in order in the city of Toronto, to derail the gravy train so to speak, and also to get some pretty tough bargaining and fair deals with the unions," he said.
"We need that at Queen's Park."
Holyday, a close ally of Mayor Rob Ford, will square off against Toronto city councillor Peter Milczyn, who will carry the Liberal banner in the riding that was held for the last 10 years by former education minister Laurel Broten.
Broten, who quit politics in June, won the riding with 51 per cent of the vote in 2011, easily defeating the Tory candidate who got 29 per cent.
The Liberals have more than doubled Ontario's debt since they were first elected 10 years ago, complained Holyday.
"I really feel strongly that we need a change at Queen's Park," he said, "and if people like myself who might be able to do something about it aren't willing to step up and do it, then who's going to do it?"
The Liberals questioned why Holyday would want to join a party that pushed hundreds of millions of dollars in costs onto towns and cities when they were last in power in Ontario.
"I am surprised that Mr. Holyday has decided to align himself with Tim Hudak, who was part of a government under Mike Harris that downloaded tremendous amount of costs to municipalities like the city of Toronto," said Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi.
Etobicoke-Lakeshore was one of several Liberal seats that the Opposition says was saved by the government's decisions to cancel gas plants in nearby Mississauga and Oakville prior to the last election, at a cost of at least $585 million.
Holyday, the last mayor of the former city of Etobicoke, placed second as the PC candidate in the old riding of Etobicoke-West during the 1987 provincial election.
"I think this is huge, for Toronto and for the province," said Hudak.
Toronto police detective Steve Ryan, who won the Conservative nomination in Etobicoke-Lakeshore last December, was injured and will not be able to run in the byelection, added Hudak.
Premier Kathleen Wynne was criticized by both the Tories and New Democrats for scheduling the byelections on Aug. 1, just ahead of a summer long weekend. They claim she wants a low voter turnout to help the Liberals.
"I'd like to have a longer period and certainly have it when people are home so we can talk to more people and try to make our point," said Holyday.
The byelections will be held in Windsor, London, Ottawa and in two Toronto ridings to replace five Liberals who resigned since Wynne was sworn in as premier in February.
The New Democrats plan to hold nomination meetings this weekend to get candidates in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Ottawa-South and Scarborough-Guildwood, all of which became vacant just last month. They already have candidates in Windsor-Tecumseh and London-West, both of which were vacated by Liberals in February.
The Liberals were one seat short of a majority government before losing the five members, so the outcomes of the byelections will not change the balance of power in the legislature.
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