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Christine Elliott enters race to replace Ontario PC leader

MPP Christine Elliott — the widow of ex-federal finance minister Jim Flaherty — is taking another shot at leading Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives.

Elliott announced Wednesday morning in Toronto that she’s entering the race to succeed Tim Hudak, who will be stepping down as PC leader when the legislature returns on July 2.

“I am determined to lead the PC party,” she said outside the McMurrich Building at the University of Toronto.

She added that her party had a lot of work to do in the next four years because the recent election showed that “we failed to connect with the issues that mattered” to the public. And to take the party forward “it’s going to take new leadership,” she said.

Elliott finished third when Hudak won the Tory leadership race in 2009.

Flaherty failed in bids in 2002 and 2004 to lead the Ontario Tories.

Her name was put forward as a possible favourite to replace Hudak after he announced he was stepping down following the crushing defeat of his party in the June 12 election.

Elliott is deputy leader of the party and has served as critic for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Mental Health Reform.

Tory MPP and labour critic Monte McNaughton said he is also “seriously” considering a run for the leadership.

“I’ve spent every day since the election making calls to party activists across the province and to caucus members,” he told The Canadian Press.

“I really am overwhelmed and humbled by the support that I’ve been receiving across Ontario.”

It could be a crowded field. Tory energy critic Lisa MacLeod, who once worked for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, appears to be testing the waters, penning a column in the Toronto Star calling for a new leader “who understands urban, suburban and rural concerns.”

Her Ottawa riding of Nepean-Carleton “is a microcosm of the growing and changing Ontario that our party must represent,” she wrote Tuesday.

There’s also a campaign underway by some party activists to draft federal Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt into the race.

Other names mentioned as possible candidates include Tory MPP and finance critic Vic Fedeli, as well as party president Richard Ciano.

Educated as a lawyer, Elliott entered politics when she won a seat in Whitby, east of Toronto, in the March 2006 byelection.

During the 2009 leadership race, Elliott preached the Red Tory mantra of fiscal conservatism and social responsibility — very different from Flaherty who during his 2002 leadership bid proposed jailing the homeless.

She rejected any political labels — “I define myself as a Conservative, period” — saying her beliefs are rooted in her experiences as a mother, businesswoman and advocate for people with special needs, including her son John.

Following the June 12 election, Elliott said it was “a combination of things” that drove voters from the PCs to the Liberals.

“We ran a principled campaign and I’m very proud, (but) it just wasn’t meant to be,” she said.