Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford says he is “leaning” toward running for a seat in the provincial legislature and has the backing of Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.
Several PC insiders from various levels of the party, however, privately express fears that Mr. Ford’s outspoken nature – combined with the drug scandals surrounding his brother, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford – would make him a difficult candidate and distract from the Tories’ message at Queen’s Park. Mr. Hudak has appeared exasperated at having to frequently answer questions about the Ford brothers instead of discussing his agenda.
Mr. Ford would also have to pass a party screening process, including background checks, to be approved as a candidate.
“I’m considering running provincially,” he told reporters at city hall. “I haven’t announced it yet, but I seem to be leaning that way.”
Asked whether he has Mr. Hudak’s support, Mr. Ford said: “Absolutely. Last time I spoke to him, he absolutely supports me.” He did not say when the two last spoke.
Mr. Hudak’s office refused to confirm or deny Mr. Ford’s claim Monday. In an interview with The Globe and Mail last month, the Tory Leader left the door open to Mr. Ford’s candidacy, but would not give him his endorsement and dodged questions about city hall.
“I just feel like I’ve spent too much breath talking about the mayor of Toronto when I want to be talking about what people want me to talk about, and that’s: How do we get our economy moving again?” Mr. Hudak said.
Asked if he would welcome Mr. Ford’s candidacy, he replied: “Same answer … I’m happy to talk about my team, I’m happy to talk about my candidates, I’m happy to talk about my plan.”
When Mr. Ford first expressed interest in running last year, Mr. Hudak said he was “thrilled.” But his tone changed after reports of a video purportedly showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine were published in May.
Shortly after, a Globe and Mail investigation reported Doug Ford was a high-volume hashish dealer in the 1980s. The councillor denies these allegations.
Since then, Mr. Hudak has refused to publicly back Mr. Ford’s candidacy.
In the fall, the councillor accused Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair of having a political motivation when he confirmed the existence of the video. Doug Ford’s comments further alienated some Tories, who quietly grumbled about the amount of attention the Fords were receiving.
All prospective PC candidates must undergo a screening process that includes criminal record and credit checks, along with an interview and a questionnaire to determine if a possible candidate has done anything of which the party would disapprove. It is unclear, however, exactly how extensive the background checks would be. Mr. Ford does not have a criminal record.
“There’s a process to be followed with all nominations that consists of an interested candidate first sending in his papers that include a lengthy questionnaire, an interview, and background checks,” party spokesman Alan Sakach wrote in an e-mail.
Mr. Ford has announced he is not planning to seek re-election to Toronto council in October. He would seek the Conservative nomination in Etobicoke North, a riding held by the governing Liberals. He is currently running the mayor’s re-election campaign.
A provincial vote is widely expected this spring.
Mr. Ford said he has no aspirations to run for PC leader. “Make no mistake about it: Tim Hudak’s the leader and Tim Hudak’s gonna be the next premier. Bottom line: That’s it.”