A year after calling for Liberals to win a majority in the Ontario election, “Hurricane” Hazel McCallion has endorsed Christine Elliott to become the next PC leader.
Elliott’s campaign shared the news Tuesday with a media release lauding the “enthusiastic” backing of the 94-year-old, who opted in October not to run again after 36 years as Mississauga’s mayor.
“Both provincially and federally it is essential to have strong female leaders represent all parties,” McCallion said in the release. “The time has come for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party to give a woman, Christine Elliott, the chance to become the leader and to rebuild the PC party.”
Elliott, who is running against federal Conservative MP Patrick Brown, said she was honoured to have the support of a “good friend” who “knows what it takes to win.”
During the provincial campaign last spring, McCallion told reporters she wanted to see Liberal Kathleen Wynne remain premier. She also warned that returning Liberals to power with anything less than a majority government would leave municipalities “hanging,” unsure if legislation will pass. Elliott was serving as deputy leader of the PCs at the time.
“I think we need more women leading parties and cities,” McCallion said at a news conference with Wynne last year. The then-mayor added, however, that Ontarians should vote according to the issues.
McCallion also said it was time to move beyond the scandal surrounding the Liberals’ decision to cancel the construction of gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville — a project estimated to cost taxpayers more than $1 billion.
“Water under the bridge,” she said at the time.
Wynne’s Liberals would go on to win every seat in Mississauga en route to a majority government.
Elliott Also Endorsed By Ford Brothers
But McCallion is not the first high-profile mayor to support Elliott’s campaign. Earlier this month, controversial former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who had been supporting MPP Monte McNaughton before he exited the race and endorsed Brown, threw his support her way.
Elliott told The Canadian Press that Ford and his brother, Doug, have been “family friends” for years after their dad served with her late husband Jim Flaherty in the Ontario legislature.
Her campaign Facebook page also features a video of Doug Ford, a former Toronto councillor and mayoral candidate, singing Elliott's praises.
Last week, Elliott posted a photo to Twitter suggesting she had the backing of former Ontario premier Mike Harris. However, a Toronto Star reporter has said Harris is actually staying neutral in the race.
Considered the “establishment” candidate in the race, Elliott has support from the majority of PC MPPs, and former leadership candidates Vic Fedeli and Lisa MacLeod. A number of high-profile federal Conservatives including Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt have also endorsed her.
However, Brown, a 36-year-old MP first elected in 2006, has usurped Elliott’s front-runner status by selling more party memberships, vaulting himself to the top of recent polls. He’s won support from hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey. On Tuesday, Federal Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre endorsed his campaign.
Brown has made reaching out to various ethnic communities in urban Ontario a key part of his strategy to rebuild the PC party. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who struck up a friendship with the backbench MP years earlier, attended a rally for Brown when he visited Canada weeks ago.
PC members will vote for their new leader on Sunday and Thursday next week. The results will be announced at an event in Toronto on May 9.
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