Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has personally appealed to Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday in a bid to land a high-profile candidate for an upcoming by-election, Mr. Holyday said Wednesday.
If he agrees to carry the Tory standard in the Aug. 1 vote in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, the veteran municipal leader will give the party a clear shot at breaking into the seat-rich provincial capital, where it has been consistently shut out in recent elections. He will find himself squaring off against another member of Mayor Rob Ford's executive, Councillor Peter Milczyn, who is running for the governing Liberals.
The candidacy would also put the Tories in an unusual position: the party has already nominated Detective Steve Ryan, a Toronto Police homicide investigator, and he would have to step aside to allow Mr. Holyday to run.
Mr. Holyday said he had not yet made up his mind.
"It's a very serious matter. As you know, the Conservatives do not hold a seat in the city of Toronto," he told reporters. "They'd like to break the pane, if you like. And they think that I can do it."
Mr. Holyday, who ran for the Tories in 1987, said he has been approached several times since, but that the party is pressuring him harder than it has before. He said Mr. Hudak first contacted him last week.
"There's a lot of people lobbying me," he said. "I think I'd have a good chance. I certainly think it's time for a change."
Tory spokesman Alan Sakach refused to confirm that the party had approached Mr. Holyday. He also would not say what would happen to Mr. Ryan, who won the nomination Dec. 5 of last year, should the deputy mayor accept Mr. Hudak's alleged invitation to run.
Both Mr. Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, lined up behind Mr. Holyday, pledging to lend him their political organization.
"I support the deputy mayor. I am going to do everything in my power to get him elected if he decides to run," Mayor Ford said.
Councillor Doug Ford, who first got involved in politics working on Mr. Holyday's Etobicoke mayoral campaigns, pledged to knock on doors for him.
Mr. Milczyn has already broken with key aspects of Mr. Ford's agenda. At his nomination meeting Tuesday evening, Mr. Milczyn pledged whole-hearted support for Ms. Wynne's plan to create a dedicated revenue stream to build new subways and light rail lines -- a policy Mr. Ford vociferously opposes.
"It is inevitable. Transit does not appear for free. We've had decades of lack of investment in public transit expansion, that's why were so far behind. We need to catch up," he said as he greeted supporters in his campaign headquarters, a cavernous former car dealership on an industrial stretch of Dundas Street West near Kipling Avenue.
"All I've heard over the last number of months from my residents is 'Get on with it. We need to start building transit.'"
Mr. Holyday previously served as mayor of pre-amalgamation Etobicoke and has established himself as the genteel elder statesman of city hall's right.
Even one of Ms. Wynne's top lieutenants had kind words for him after learning of his possible candidacy.
"I think Peter Milczyn will beat him pretty soundly, but I have a huge amount of respect for Mr. Holyday and all of our cousins in municipal politics," Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Glen Murray said. "When people go into an election and they have quality people to choose from, that's always a good thing."