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Doug Ford says family his priority as he rules out PC leadership run

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

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TORONTO - 

Doug Ford has ruled out a run for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

Ford announced Thursday he will throw his support behind leadership candidate Christine Elliott, who along with her now deceased husband Jim Flaherty were strong supporters of the Ford family.

“It’s been the most difficult decision of my entire life,” Ford said. “It’s tougher than deciding whether to run for mayor, run for council, any decision I’ve ever made.

“I decided right up to literally last night ... I know my priority’s my family.”

Ford said he would work for any of the five candidates currently seeking the leadership of the party.

Thanking Ford for his endorsement, Elliott said in a statement that the Ford brothers have tapped into a constituency of disaffected voters that feel neglected by the PCs, NDP and the Liberals.

“I want the PC Party of the future to be known as the Big Blue Tent,” she said.

Ford said he’ll remain active in politics and suggested he would like to be an MPP for Etobicoke North, currently held by a Liberal, because Ontario is in a financial mess with more debt than California.

The solution will be to find efficiencies, not to fire 100,000 public servants as the PCs campaigned on in the June provincial election, he said.

Ford said his brother Rob had urged him to seek the leadership, as had many people across the province.

“I apologize to all our supporters, my family, especially my brother Rob,” he said. “I was with him late last night and I just pray and my thoughts are always with my brother Rob.” Premier Kathleen Wynne was asked earlier in the day about a Ford candidacy.

“We are certainly different people,” Wynne said. “I think that decorum and civil debate is very, very important.”

PC leadership candidate Lisa MacLeod said she would have liked to have seen Ford in the race but understands why he would want to put family and business first right now.

“I thought his message was very positive for the party today and I think that’s going to help us restore pride in the party,” MacLeod said.

Leadership candidate Vic Fedeli said he welcomes anyone who wants to boost the PC party, which has seen its membership decline to 10,000 from 100,000.

“I think it does speak volumes to the future of our party that Doug Ford considered running for us,” leadership candidate Monte McNaughton said.

Interim PC Leader Jim Wilson, who is in charge until a new leader is chosen by party members in May, said he hopes Ford will stay interested in the party.

Asked about previous criticism levelled at the PCs by Ford, Wilson said he’s entitled to his opinion.

“I wouldn’t be expert enough to know what goes through the minds of the Fords from time to time,” he said.

Ford said the new leader should be someone whose appeal goes beyond traditional PC supporters, a person who can attract votes from all three parties, from business types and from those living in social housing.

The Liberals have received a “free ride” and continue to waste money, he said.

“We need someone with a backbone that’s willing to stand up and put an end to this,” said Ford.

 antonella.artuso@sunmedia.ca

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