TORONTO — Former Ontario legislator Christine Elliott announced Thursday she is running to lead the province's Progressive Conservative party, which has been working to get back on track after its top ranks were rocked by sexual misconduct allegations last week.
Elliott, 62, announced her plans to enter the race through a tweet, saying "I'm in."
She will be among those vying to replace former party leader Patrick Brown, who resigned after emphatically denying sexual misconduct accusations reported by CTV News. His departure came mere months before a spring general election.
Elliott, the widow of late federal finance minister Jim Flaherty, has run twice unsuccessfully for the Tory leadership, once in 2009 when she lost to Tim Hudak, and again in 2015, when she came second to Brown.
She currently serves as Ontario's non-partisan patient ombudsman.
Former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, brother of the city's late former mayor Rob Ford, is the only other declared candidate in the leadership contest.
Other potential candidates include Caroline Mulroney, the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, and former Postmedia executive Rod Phillips.
Those seeking to helm the Tories — or help decide who will — must register with the party by Feb. 16.
Under rules established Wednesday, leadership candidates must submit $100,000 in fees and deposits to run, with another $25,000 due later to access the party's membership list. Each candidate's campaign spending cannot exceed $750,000.
Votes will be cast electronically between March 2 and March 8, and the results will be announced March 10. The party's leadership election organizing committee has said the Tories would stick to a one-member one-vote rule.
After Brown's departure, the Progressive Conservative caucus had recommended the party's interim leader, Vic Fedeli, stay on through the June election, drawing objections from those who argued the party membership should have a say. The party executive chose to overrule caucus and hold a leadership race before the spring general campaign.
Fedeli announced soon afterwards that he would not be seeking to make his role permanent. Other legislators considered potential candidates — Monte McNaughton, Lisa MacLeod and Todd Smith — have also ruled out a run for the top spot.
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Since Brown's departure, the Tories have also had to deal with their party president leaving his post on Sunday amid a separate allegation of sexual assault reported by Maclean's magazine. None of the allegations have been verified by The Canadian Press.
Asked how the upheaval in the Opposition would affect the upcoming election, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said what happens with the Tories is outside of her control.
"The Tories will either be energized or depleted by their process, that's up to them," she said.
Regardless of who is chosen as leader, there will be a "strong contrast" between the two parties' policies, she said.