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PC MPP Doug Holyday brings the rural-dominated party a badly needed voice in the vote-rich Toronto suburbs. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)
PC MPP Doug Holyday brings the rural-dominated party a badly needed voice in the vote-rich Toronto suburbs. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

Doug Holyday could help PCs in vote-rich Toronto suburbs Add to ...

When Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak imagines his ideal new caucus member, he probably pictures Doug Holyday.

A denizen of Etobicoke with more than 30 years’ experience in municipal politics, Mr. Holyday brings the rural-dominated party a badly needed voice in the vote-rich Toronto suburbs. Genteel and grandfatherly, he is a strong communicator. And he is a dyed-in-the-wool blue Tory with a history of cutting budgets and fighting unions – the embodiment of the small-government conservatism on which Mr. Hudak will campaign in the next general election.

“You have to make sure that you’re living within your means,” Mr. Holyday said in an interview, summing up his philosophy. “It might be very nice to supply services galore to everyone that wants it, but if you haven’t got the money to do that, you have to learn to say ‘no’ at some time.”

Mr. Holyday, who was sworn in as MPP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore on Thursday after winning a by-election earlier this month, is expected to play an important role in shaping the Tories’ vision on what a smaller government would look like, party insiders said. They are also hoping he will get them more attention on urban issues, and encourage right-leaning Torontonians to vote for the party.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that if you’re going to hone a message for an urban centre – and not just Toronto, but Ottawa or any of the other large urban centres – you’ve got to have somebody there who is on the ground dealing with the issues,” said Chris Stockwell, a former Tory cabinet minister who himself represented an Etobicoke riding.

Mr. Holyday’s kindly charisma will also be an asset in selling the PCs’ government-shrinking agenda, he said.

“[Mr. Holyday] can disagree with you without being disagreeable. And I think that’s going to be refreshing,” he said. “You can make your point, you can argue your austerity program without insulting people.”

More complicated will be Mr. Holyday’s link with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. The PC caucus is said to be divided over Mr. Ford, who has been caught up in a series of scandals over the past year. And in contrast to Mr. Ford’s free-wheeling populism, Mr. Hudak presents himself as thoughtful and disciplined.

In some ways, Mr. Holyday represents the advantages of Mr. Ford without the drawbacks. He quarterbacked many of his successes – such as forcing city unions into a deal that contained labour costs – but has not been involved in the scandals.

On Thursday, the two sides made a show of unity at Mr. Holyday’s Queen’s Park swearing-in, which Mr. Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, attended.

“It’s great they’re here, because [Mr. Holyday] has been an outstanding deputy mayor for Rob Ford. Now I’m going to put that to work for me,” Mr. Hudak said.

Asked if he supported Mr. Hudak, the mayor replied: “Yeah. You’ve got to give him a chance and I don’t think we have to review his leadership.”

Mr. Holyday, for his part, told The Globe and Mail he already has some ideas about what he will push for at Queen’s Park. These include rejigging the province’s system of arbitration, which often awards unions pay raises above the rate of inflation, and removing requirements that municipalities use unionized labour when contracting out some work.

He said he has not had a chance to discuss with Mr. Hudak what exact role he will play in the Tory caucus, but he can guess.

“I’m sure that he’s going to find something for me to do, something I imagine involving … the Toronto area,” he said. “There’s a lot of things we can do.”

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