Next Ontario PC leader 'will not be me,' says MP Lisa Raitt

MP Lisa Raitt will not be entering Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race, the representative from Milton, Ont., revealed Saturday.

The MP from Milton, Ont., was floated as a possible leadership candidate by political observers

Lisa Raitt, deputy leader of the federal Conservative party, said Saturday that she will not seek the leadership of the Ontario PCs. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

MP Lisa Raitt revealed on Saturday she will not be entering Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race.

Raitt, originally from Cape Breton, N.S., is a deputy leader of the federal Conservative party and has long been floated as a possible leadership candidate. She represents Milton, Ont.

Speculation intensified this week after former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown was forced to resign his post following allegations of sexual misconduct, during his time as a Barrie MP, from two women. Brown has denied any wrongdoing and remains an MPP for Simcoe North. 

"I commend the #PCPO for opening up this race, allowing everyone a voice in selecting our next leader," Raitt said in a tweet posted early Saturday. 

"While it will not be me, I will continue to work with our candidates across the province to ensure a new [Ontario PC] government June 7!"

In a follow-up post, Raitt said she looks forward to working with federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to help elect a PC government in Ontario in the upcoming provincial election.

On Friday, the Ontario PC caucus held a snap meeting to select a new interim leader. Nipissing MPP and former North Bay mayor Vic Fedeli emerged with unanimous support from caucus. 

Just hours of announcing Fedeli's new role, the Ontario PC caucus executive revealed it would hold an open leadership race in March. Whoever wins that contest will take on Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne on the campaign trail. 

The decision to hold a leadership election has put a spotlight on what seems to be a deepening divide between the PC caucus — which reportedly hoped for Fedeli to stay on as leader heading into the election — and about 200,000 PC party members across the province.

An open letter, co-signed by 28 PC candidates not currently in caucus and circulated on social media on Friday, called for the executive to side with party members who want an open leadership contest. 

Fedeli told reporters that he will seek the permanent leadership post. Usually, interim leaders are barred from such a move, but the PC caucus waived that impediment in this particular instance, given the circumstances.

Other names being floated include:

  • MPP Lisa MacLeod.
  • MPP Monte McNaughton.
  • Former Ontario PC leadership candidate Christine Elliot.
  • PC candidate in York-Simcoe Caroline Mulroney.
  • Former OLG chief executive and current PC candidate in Ajax Rod Phillips.
  • Former federal minister of foreign affairs John Baird.
  • Former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford.
  • MP Tony Clement.

Contacted by phone on Saturday, Elliot said she had no comment about a potential bid, while Phillips said only that he is not a candidate "at this moment.

"I was the first candidate to publicly state the party should hold an open leadership race," he told CBC Toronto. "The new leader must have a mandate from the party before seeking a mandate from the people."

On Sunday, Clement posted to Twitter that he's "staying in federal politics" and will not be running.