A high-profile executive whose prospective candidacy had caused a buzz in Ontario political circles has opted against running for the Progressive Conservative leadership.
Rod Phillips, the former CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation who now serves as chair of Postmedia and of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, sent a statement to would-be supporters on Thursday afternoon announcing his decision.
"After thorough consideration I have decided to focus on fulfilling my own recent commitments to Chair the Boards of Directors of The Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, the TELUS Toronto Community Board and Postmedia," Mr. Phillips said. "While I will not be running for leader I will continue to work with party members and others to ensure that the issues that are critical to a prosperous, healthy, city and region receive the focus they deserve."
Mr. Phillips, who worked previously as a political staffer but has never run for office himself, was known to be putting together a campaign team as he contemplated a bid for the job vacated by Tim Hudak after the Tories' fourth straight election loss this past June. While lacking an organizational network to start with, his fundraising capabilities relative to other contenders – partly by virtue of his close business professional relationship with Toronto conservative titan Paul Godfrey – might have helped make him competitive.
As of now, erstwhile deputy leader Christine Elliott is the only candidate to have officially announced her entry into the race. Three other MPPs – Vic Fedeli, Lisa MacLeod and Monte McNaughton – have been informally campaigning, as have federal MP Patrick Brown and Borealis Infrastructure executive Rick Byers.
There is ongoing pressure on several Ontario members of the federal cabinet, including Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt, to join a race that continues to look wide open.