Christine Elliott says she didn't know specifics of job cut plan
Ontario PC leadership hopeful admits presentation of the plan was 'politically devastating'
Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario leadership contender Christine Elliott says she "did not know" about Tim Hudak's controversial plan to cut 100,000 public service jobs but rather she found out "the same time everybody else did — through the media."
But when pressed by Evan Solomon of CBC's Power and Politics, she admitted that she saw — in advance of the campaign announcement — a one-page document from the party that "talked about having to reduce [the public service] by about a hundred thousand jobs."
Elliott has previously denied any knowledge of Hudak's plan.
"I at no time knew about the 100,000 job cuts ... it came with no warning," Elliott told the Toronto Star in January.
Elliott defended herself Thursday, saying she did not know about all the details of the jobs plan, because the one-page document she saw was light on specifics and "was an approximation."
"Talking about making government smaller by about 100,000 jobs is a really different thing than 'we're going to go out and cut 100,000 jobs,'" Elliott said.
Lack of explanation 'toxic' to party
"To say that you're going to cut 100,000 jobs without explaining that most of it would be through attrition and program review and other things was politically devastating for us. I would never [have] suggested we say it in that manner. If I did know, I would have voiced my concern about it because I would have known how toxic it would have been."
Hudak, as PC leader, made the pledge to pare back the number of civil servants in his platform for the 2014 Ontario provincial election, which he subsequently lost to Kathleen Wynne's Liberals.
Elliott's main opponent in the leadership race — Conservative Member of Parliament Patrick Brown — has criticized Elliott for her role in that failed election campaign.
"[The voters] looked at you, Christine, our deputy leader, standing shoulder to shoulder with Tim Hudak on the 100,000 job cuts. They chose Kathleen Wynne over you," he said at a PC leadership debate in London last month.
Elliott called for Brown to step down from his role as MP for Barrie while running for the leadership.
Elliott wants Brown to step down as MP
"I think that if he really wants to show his commitment to provincial politics then yes, he should, [step down]. It's not fair to his constituents in Barrie, it's not fair to the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario for him to not demonstrate his commitment by doing that," she told Solomon.
Brown has taken heat on this issue before. During a debate in Ottawa on Wednesday, he wavered about whether he would still run as a member of the provincial legislature if he loses the leadership race.
"I will serve the conservative movement in any way I can," he said, refusing to rule out another run for the federal Tories. "Regardless of what happens in this leadership, I will work hard for the party. I plan to win this leadership," he added.