Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop is throwing his support to Tim Hudak in the race to replace John Tory as leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives.
“I gave my commitment to Tim on the first ballot,” he told The Mirror, noting Hudak was his original seatmate at Queen’s Park when he was first elected in 1999. “He is a young man and is in his fourth term. He’s ambitious, bright, a hard worker – and he really wants the job.”
The party has been without a leader since Tory resigned March 5. The leadership vote is scheduled for June 27 in Markham. To date, four candidates have thrown their hat in the ring for the chance to lead the party into the 2011 provincial election.
In addition to Hudak, MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook, others seeking the party’s top job are: Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees; Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington MPP Randy Hillier; and Whitby-Oshawa MPP Christine Elliot.
Though he supports Hudak, Dunlop said he wouldn’t be disappointed should Elliot walk away the victor.
“For me, the top two are Tim Hudak and Christine Elliot. I’ve worked closely with both of them, and they’ve become pretty good friends,” he said. “Christine … is very bright, easygoing and conscientious.”
Dunlop added he made his commitment to Hudak before Elliot entered the race.
“I didn’t know she was interested in it. She is a really exceptional person, so I am hoping one of those two people will get it. It would be an honour to work with either of them.”
As to whether Dunlop has given any consideration to making a bid at the job, he said while he has been approached by his constituents about the idea, he would rather take a bit of a back seat.
“I never really had the network, and I would rather help someone else with the leadership and, hopefully, down the road, get on cabinet myself.”
Dunlop said he believes, with so many things happening at a provincial level, Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty is becoming vulnerable – leaving an opening for the Conservatives to make a comeback in 2011.
“This latest tax harmonization hasn’t gone over well for them, and the economy lost those jobs. With the right leader and the right team, we’d have a pretty good chance of doing a lot better in 2011 than we have in the past.”
No matter which of the four hopefuls takes the prize, the party will have a leader sitting in the legislature for the first time in almost two years; Tory failed to win a seat in his Toronto riding in 2007.
The party had hoped a Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock byelection earlier this year would change that, but Liberal Rick Johnson beat Tory, who then stepped down as leader.
MPP Bob Runciman is the interim leader of the party.
At the leadership convention, anyone over 14 years of age can buy a PC membership for $10. To vote for leader, a membership must be bought or renewed before May 14.