Christine Elliott is making no secret of her happiness at her husband’s resignation as federal finance minister, saying Jim Flaherty’s decision to quit came after family discussions late last year.
And Ms. Elliott, an MPP and deputy leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives, batted away any suggestion his move was designed to set up a run for the leadership of the provincial party if Tim Hudak fails to win an election that could come as early as this spring.
Visibly elated as she left Question Period Wednesday morning, Ms. Elliott said Mr. Flaherty started considering his exit around Christmas.
“It’s something that we mulled over as a family. He’s been there for almost eight years and he’s been in political life for twenty years. You know what? There comes an end to this for everybody at some point. There’s never a good time to leave, but this just seemed as good a time as any,” she said, sporting a wide smile.
“He just wants to spend more time with the family and particularly with our sons and he wants to explore other options in the private sector.”
Ms. Elliott said her husband timed his departure so he would be around long enough to deliver the budget that maps out the home stretch of the government’s run to balance – expected to happen next year – but also wanted to give his successor, Joe Oliver, a long period of time to learn the file before tabling a budget of his own.
She said he will not run in the next federal election but has “no plans to leave” his post as an MP.
Mr. Flaherty, who served as provincial finance minister under former premier Mike Harris, made two unsuccessful runs at the leadership of the Ontario PCs. But Ms. Elliott said he harbours no designs on the job any more.
“No, no, absolutely not, no,” she said.
Ms. Elliott, deputy leader of the party and health critic – one of the most prestigious portfolios in shadow cabinet – also went out of her way to stress her loyalty to Mr. Hudak.
“I’m firmly committed to my team here at Queen’s Park and I want to make sure that Tim Hudak becomes the next premier,” she said.
Mr. Hudak beat back a challenge to his leadership last year and has quieted internal party unrest by ditching plans for controversial “right to work” proposals. But if he loses the next election, he would certainly face renewed questions about his leadership.
Ms. Elliott said she is pleased her husband, who spent more than eight years as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s right-hand man, is lightening his work load. She said he will likely have more time to spend with her and the couple’s triplet sons, who recently turned 23. One is a staffer to Foreign Minister John Baird, one is in school and the third lives at home, she said.
“He’s going to be around the house a little bit more,” she said. “I’m happy for Jim because he’s accomplished what he set out to do, we will have a balanced budget next year and I’m very happy that he’s left things in shape…I think it’s worked out very well for everybody all around.”
She also had kind words for Mr. Oliver, saying he is someone “we know well and respect very much.”
“Joe Oliver is a great guy and I know that he’s going to do a wonderful job,” she said.
While Mr. Flaherty has said he hopes to work in the private sector in future, Ms. Elliott said he currently has no specific plans, as MPs are not allowed to accept job offers while in office. She suggested he will not begin looking for work in earnest until he leaves as an MP, which may not be until after the next federal election in 2015.
Ms. Elliott also said she does not plan to run for his federal seat.