Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday has clinched a seat in the Ontario legislature after a provincial by-election where he squared off against fellow councillor Peter Milczyn.
Mr. Holyday, the candidate for the Progressive Conservatives, pulled ahead of Mr. Milczyn, the Liberal pick, in the race for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, a traditionally-Liberal riding, taking 47 per cent of the vote, while Mr. Milczyn took 42 per cent.
"I didn't really have any intention to switch careers at this stage in the game but Tim and others convinced me," Mr. Holyday, 70, said surrounded by supporters at a celebration in an Etobicoke restaurant following the results. He thanked his wife Franca before extending gratitude to the Ford family for their help and endorsement.
Provincial PC leader Tim Hudak arrived shortly after the vote was called.
"Doug Holyday has been a strong voice in Etobicoke for over 30 years," Mr. Hudak said as he joined Mr. Holyday on stage.
"He helped to clean up the mess at city hall, now he's going to clean up the mess at Queen's Park and help put the province back on track."
Mayor Rob Ford, a long-time friend of Mr. Holyday, publicly endorsed and aggressively campaigned for his deputy mayor. He was with Mr. Holyday's team following the election and said he was thrilled for his friend and colleague.
"It's great. It's fantastic," Mr. Ford said.
"He worked very hard. He won here tonight. The Fords aren't taking any credit for this whatsoever. Doug did all the work."
Mr. Ford has gained an ally at Queen's Park, but is losing a loyal colleague at city hall. He'll now be tasked with appointing a new deputy mayor while the Etobicoke-Centre ward Mr. Holyday represented must replace its city councillor.
"He's a huge asset for the city," Mr. Ford said, adding it was worth losing his right-hand man for the gain at Queen's Park.
Mr. Milczyn said he was disappointed by the loss but still proud of the campaign and his party.
"The people wanted to express a protest against some of the things that have happened. They've done that," he said at his event a few blocks away from Mr. Holyday's.
The riding was a particularly eye-catching race, in part due to the tense intersection it created between municipal and provincial politics. Mayor Ford campaigned for several Tory candidates, even comparing the Liberals to bank robbers as tensions rose late in the campaign.
The day before the vote, provincial transportation minister Glen Murray – who had previously been working closely with Mr. Ford to fund a subway line in Scarborough – called Mr. Holyday a mouthpiece for Mr. Ford and told the mayor to butt out of the provincial race.
The race also grew heated between Mr. Holyday and his Liberal counterpart, after Mr. Milczyn filed a complaint for a photo op where Mr. Holyday posed in front of a city-contracted garbage truck. He later criticized Mr. Holyday for being photographed with election signs on a subway platform, moves Mr. Holyday called "petty."
But Mayor Ford said he didn't hold anything against Mr. Milczyn after the heated race.
"There's nothing wrong with Peter. He's just running for the wrong party," the Mayor quipped Thursday night.
"He's done a great job."
Mr. Milczyn was less enthusiastic. When asked if he would continue on in his role on the Mayor's executive committee, he said it was up to Mr. Ford. When told the mayor has already said he would be happy to have Mr. Milczyn stay on, the Liberal candidate was noncommittal.
"Well, that's fine," he said.
The Tories only won one out of the five by-elections Thursday, but Etobicoke-Lakeshore was a particularly symbolic win for both Mr. Ford and Mr. Hudak. Mr. Ford's campaigning for Mr. Holyday helped gauge the mayor's popularity following a year riddled with controversy as he gears up for a re-election campaign in 2014. Meanwhile, scooping a traditionally Liberal Toronto seat where the Tories have been shut out for a decade gave Mr. Hudak a feather in his cap.