Ontario Deputy Premier Christine Elliott confirms she won't seek re-election
Ford government has now lost two cabinet ministers in lead-up to June 2 election
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is facing another high-profile resignation just months away from the provincial election as Christine Elliott, his deputy premier, announced on Friday that she's leaving politics.
CBC News broke the news of Elliott's departure late Thursday.
Elliott has served as health minister since Ford's Progressive Conservatives took office in 2018, putting her at the forefront of the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement issued Friday morning, Elliott said she made the decision to not run in the coming provincial election after "considerable reflection and discussion" with her family.
"I sought elected office in 2006 because of my strong desire to improve the quality of life of individuals with special needs, as well as mental health challenges. I saw gaps in care and that motivated me to action," Elliott said.
Elliott says Ford asked her to stay on as health minister until the spring, and she agreed.
At a news conference Friday, she thanked Ford for the opportunity to serve as Ontario's minister of health.
"It has truly been an honour and a very great privilege, especially during a pandemic," she said.
In a statement following Elliott's announcement, Ford called her a "close, personal friend" and says she did her work as health minister "with grace, dignity, professionalism and compassion."
The premier lauded Elliott's character during Friday's news conference.
"I couldn't ask for a better person, a better friend, a leader, someone with integrity, and just an honest person," Ford said.
The announcement makes Elliott the second senior member of Ford's cabinet to step down this year. Rod Phillips, who was serving as minister of long-term care and was once the province's finance minister, announced his resignation in January.
Elliott came within a whisker of beating Ford in the 2018 Ontario PC leadership race. Although more members voted for her than Ford in their head-to-head race on the third and final ballot, Elliott lost by a margin of one per cent in the party's mathematically complex points system.
That was her third unsuccessful leadership bid after losing to Patrick Brown in 2015 and placing third in 2009 when the PCs chose Tim Hudak.
Elliott, a lawyer who turns 67 next month, has been an MPP for 13 years. She was first elected in 2006, but left politics for a three-year stretch after losing the 2015 leadership race.
During that hiatus, then-premier Kathleen Wynne appointed Elliott to be Ontario's first patient ombudsman.
'Looking forward to what the next chapter will bring'
Elliott represents the riding of Newmarket-Aurora. In a statement issued Friday morning, the PC Party announced that Dawn Gallagher Murphy, who has been working as Elliott's community office manager, will run as its candidate in the riding for the next election.
The party says that she is "a proud mother, wife and entrepreneur with 25 years in the secure payments industry, including 15 years managing her own consulting business."
The official start of the election campaign is scheduled for May 4.
Elliott's late husband, Jim Flaherty, served as Ontario's finance minister under PC Premier Mike Harris and as Canada's finance minister under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In her statement issued Friday, Elliott expressed her thanks to health-care workers.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has tested us all, but none more so than our incredible frontline health care workers. I want to express my profound admiration of and gratitude for all who provide care to Ontarians each and every day. They do so bravely, selflessly, and at great expense to their own personal lives and circumstances," she said.
"I am truly thankful for the journey I have taken in public life and am looking forward to what the next chapter will bring."