Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown will run in the provincial riding of Simcoe North.
Garfield Dunlop, the Opposition education critic, announced on Wednesday that he is stepping aside for Mr. Brown. Mr. Dunlop has represented the riding since 1999 and won last year's election with nearly 44 per cent of the vote. His Liberal opponent had 32.5 per cent.
The riding is primarily rural, and includes small communities such as Orillia, Midland and Penetanguishene.
The 37-year-old Mr. Brown was elected Leader in May, but did not have a seat in the provincial legislature. He had served in the House of Commons as the MP for Barrie since 2006.
"I'm so humbled and honoured that Garfield believes in my ability to represent the people of Simcoe North," Mr. Brown said at the announcement in Coldwater, Ont. He said Mr. Dunlop offered his seat to him. Mr. Brown's advisers had said several MPPs volunteered to step down, but Mr. Brown's family has some history in Simcoe County, which he pointed out during the announcement.
Mr. Dunlop initially supported Ottawa-area MPP Lisa MacLeod for the leadership. She dropped out before the May vote.
In his remarks, Mr. Dunlop, who has been in politics for 35 years, talked about the demands of public office. He said he and his wife Jane bought a cottage on the Severn River in 1991, and since 2000 have slept one night there. He also says he has missed many events involving his grandchildren, such as basketball games and equestrian competitions.
"This is a really difficult decision for me," he said. But, he added, he is excited about the possibility that the next premier of Ontario could be from Simcoe North.
He mentioned that when Mr. Brown declared his intention to seek the leadership more than a year ago, he said to himself, "Who does this guy think he is, coming down from Ottawa?"
But he said he was impressed with the fact that he sold more than 40,000 memberships to win the leadership, as well as his energy and hard work. Although Mr. Brown had the support of only a few MPPs – most of the PC caucus supported Christine Elliott – he was accepted "immediately."
Mr. Dunlop will stay on in a voluntary role as a consultant to the Leader on education matters.
Deputy Premier Deb Matthews told reporters on Wednesday the by-election will be called after the federal election, which is expected on Oct. 19. Mr. Brown's officials had hoped it would be earlier so the Leader would be in the legislature when MPPs return in September.
Both the Liberals and NDP plan to run candidates against Mr. Brown.
Ms. Matthews described Mr. Brown as a social conservative, in part because of his opposition to the new sex-education curriculum, and a stark contrast to Mr. Dunlop. "He has been a real champion for values that run completely counter to Patrick Brown's values," she said of the departing MPP.
The Liberals have repeatedly tried to paint him as being on the far right of the political spectrum.
Mr. Brown's senior adviser, Walied Soliman, called Ms. Matthews's comments "ridiculous."
"It's disappointing that the Liberals, in light of multiple failings, continue to only have one trick in their tool kit, which is essentially the demonization of decent people," he said.