TORONTO - Ontario's Progressive Conservatives should rally behind Tim Hudak and defeat the Liberal government instead of question his leadership, the mayor of Canada's largest city said Thursday.
"You gotta give him a chance, and I don't think you need to review his leadership," Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said at swearing-in ceremony for his former deputy mayor, Doug Holyday, as the new PC member for the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
Hudak has recently come under pressure to allow a leadership review from several Tories who say they're unhappy the party won only one of five byelections held Aug. 1.
"If you look at the five byelections, we went up in every single one of them, and we won one, so that's good," Ford said.
Conservatives who are pushing for a leadership review should concentrate on ways to defeat the minority government, added Ford.
"If you look at the Liberal scandals, the corruption that's going on at eHealth and ORNGE and everything, it's overwhelming what the governing Liberals have put the taxpayers through," he said.
"Either vote NDP or Conservative, but you can't condone this Liberal behaviour."
Meanwhile, Senator Bob Runciman wrote an op-ed article saying Tories who are asking for a leadership review "seem intent on doing in the party and relegating it to opposition" for years.
"Not only does speculation about Hudak's leadership destabilize the opposition, but it shifts some of the focus from deleted emails and other ongoing revelations of the gas plant scandal," wrote Runciman, who spent 29 years in Ontario politics before being appointed to the Upper Chamber.
"The only people who truly benefit from this leadership discussion are the governing Liberals, who are delighted for obvious reasons," he added.
Hudak said he would not agree to change the rules to allow a leadership vote at a Tory policy conference next month, noting he got 78 per cent support in the mandatory review that followed their loss in the 2011 election.
"I've been asked to lead this party to win the next election...and that's the job I’m going to do," he said.
Holyday was the first Conservative elected provincially in Toronto since 1999, and Hudak said he'd rather focus on that historic breakthrough and let party officials deal with a motion that asks for a leadership review in September.
"There's a party process for this," he said. "My focus is get the province back on track, getting good jobs back, that's what I’m sticking to."
Two members of the PC caucus, Frank Klees and Randy Hillier — both of whom lost leadership bids to Hudak in 1999 — say he should welcome a review instead of blocking the will of grassroots members.
Most Conservatives feel those pushing for a leadership review next month will not be able to get enough votes to change the rules and allow the review.
New Liberal Mitzie Hunter was also sworn-in Thursday as the MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood, while Liberal John Fraser will take the oath of office Friday as the new member for Ottawa South, former premier Dalton McGuinty's old seat.
The two New Democrats elected in the Aug. 1 byelections, Percy Hatfield of Windsor and Peggy Sattler of London, were sworn-in on Wednesday.
All five new members can take their seats when the legislature resumes sitting Sept. 9.
With the byelection changes, the Liberals are down to 50 seats, the Tories have 37 and the NDP 20.
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