OTTAWA — Doug Ford committed Saturday to running for a seat in the Ontario legislature this June even if he loses the leadership race for the province's Progressive Conservatives.
But Ford said he's confident he can translate a history of electoral success in Toronto into a win provincially, not just for leadership but for the Ontario PCs as a whole.
He cited his performance in Toronto's 2014 mayoral election — he raked in about 34 per cent of the vote, finishing second after John Tory. That, he suggested, bodes well for his potential to turn Toronto's typically left-leaning voters.
"We need those seats."
He'll win them, he told the early morning crowd at a conservative conference in Ottawa, not just on the backs of Ford Nation, the nickname given to the passionate supporters of Doug and his late brother Rob.
It's thanks to them that Fords have represented a suburban Toronto riding for years, and it's because of them he'll run no matter what in 2018, he said.
But attracting NDP and Liberal voters are also key, he said, as he claimed that much of the PC Party base comes from the left.
"Don't count out hardworking union people as being fiscally conservative," he said.
Ford was the second of the three candidates speaking at the annual Manning Networking Conference. Caroline Mulroney addressed the crowd on Friday, while Christine Elliott was expected later Saturday.
The event presents each with a chance to hobnob with conservative strategists and activists, though the crowd in the downtown Ottawa convention centre is smaller than it has been in recent years.
Ford's message going into the leadership race was that he was running for the people, not the party's elite, and he vowed Saturday he was immune to them and backroom dealings.
"No one can influence me, no one can buy me," he said.
"They just can't do it."
The Ontario PCs will elect a new leader on March 10.
The leadership race was called after former leader Patrick Brown resigned in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct, which were initially reported by CTV News and have not been verified by The Canadian Press.
In an interview published Saturday by the Postmedia news agency, Brown called the allegations "absolute lies" and said he is contemplating legal action.