Fresh from a strong second-place showing in the mayor’s race, Doug Ford is eyeing a run for the Progressive Conservative leadership, saying he’s the only candidate with the chops to beat Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“We bring a whole new demographic to the table. I think we’ve changed politics . . . focusing on campaigning for the people,” Ford told the Toronto Star on Tuesday, promising a decision in “a few weeks.”
“I can honestly say I wouldn’t rule that out right now. I’m going to spend some time with the team at our company and my family and see where we go from here.”
Ford dominated Etobicoke and Scarborough in the mayoral election, polling more than 330,000 ballots city-wide and garnering 34 per cent of the vote to mayor-elect John Tory’s 40 per cent.
“I think we would have a big base of support,” Ford added, noting Toronto and its suburbs have not been fertile ground for the Conservatives, who have been shut out of power since 2003 under leaders Ernie Eves, John Tory and Tim Hudak.
“We have to start focusing more on the hard-working blue-collar people. Out of the votes I had (for mayor) I would say probably three-quarters of them would never vote PC in their lives.”
Ford, president of the family business Deco Labels & Tags, has previously mused about running in Etobicoke North for the Progressive Conservatives but decided against it.
A Ford candidacy would add interest to a race that has attracted four MPPs from Queen’s Park — Christine Elliott (whose late husband, Jim Flaherty, was a close friend of the Fords), Vic Fedeli, Lisa MacLeod and Monte McNaughton — and Barrie MP Patrick Brown.
“My personal opinion, I don’t think any of the candidates could beat Kathleen Wynne . . . they don’t attract a certain base in Toronto and the 905 that we would attract.”
However, Ford would be playing catch-up, given that potential rivals have been travelling the province lining up support for the May 9 leadership convention, particularly in areas outside the Greater Toronto Area.
The deadline for entering the race, which requires a $75,000 entry fee plus a refundable $25,000 deposit, is Jan. 30. Papers can officially be filed starting Nov. 8.
Privately, a number of Conservatives wince at the prospect of a Ford candidacy, saying Mayor Rob Ford’s scandals and some statements by Doug Ford could be a toxic turn-off for voters. He recently called a Star reporter “a little bitch.” He denied the remark was aimed at her.
Ford said the party needs to be more progressive, echoing statements by other candidates who said Hudak’s spring election promise to cut 100,000 public sector jobs was to blame for the party’s rout.
“We have to attract the union voters like we do in the mayoral election, and we have to attract people from the TCHC, the common people,” Ford said of community housing residents.
“I wouldn’t be out there laying off a million people. There’s efficiencies to be had without going after government workers, that’s for sure.”
Ford insisted he is the “fresh blood” the Conservatives need to get back into power in the 2018 provincial election.
“We need to clean the PC party out . . . from top to bottom.”