Oshawa-born health minister Elliott will not run in 2022 Ontario election, report says

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Published March 3, 2022 at 10:34 pm

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott has reportedly ruled out running for re-election — which would make her the second senior minister with Durham Region ties to quit Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario PC Party government.

Multiple media reports on Thursday night (March 3) said that Elliott, who might have become premier of Ontario four years ago, is set announce that she is leaving politics. Elliott has been the health minister under Ford since the Ontario PCs won a majority government in mid-2018, which has made her one of the forces of the provincial response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elliott, 66, who is also the deputy premier, will apparently resign from both of her cabinet posts. While she has represented ridings in her native Durham for nine of her 13 years as an member of provincial parliament, she has been the MPP for Newmarket—Aurora during the Ford era. The Ontario PC Party would have two months to find a candidate for the expected June 2 provincial election.

The news comes just one day after the province’s non-partisan Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) reported that Ford government has spent $5.5 billion less than budgeted so far in their fiscal year, withholding funding from ministries such as health care. Last spring, the FAO also projected that Ontario has a nearly $62-billion healthcare spending shortfall through to 2030.

In January, Ajax MPP Rod Phillips resigned as long-term care minister and also resigned his seat. The PCs opted to have Legislative Affairs Minister Paul Calandra pull double duty by handling both jobs, even though the long-term care sector has been one of the hardest-hit sectors of Ontario during COVID-19.

‘COVID hangover’ awaits?

Whether true or not, the speculation about Elliott’s political future comes amid a growing urgency about Ontario’s health-care system bouncing back from the pandemic. COVID-19 has created a surgical backlog. While the government has questioned the numbers, last month the Ontario Medical Association said that the pandemic has pushed back more than 1 million surgeries and more than 21 million patient services across the province.

Hamilton Health Sciences CEO Rob MacIsaac recently described the scenario as “a long and lasting COVID hangover.”

Nearly premier

The Oshawa-born, Whitby-raised Elliott thrice ran for the PC leadership. On her third try in February 2018, she actually got votes from more members than Ford did on the third and final ballot, but the party’s points system gave Ford the win by a 1 per cent margin.

With Ford at the helm, the party won a 76-seat majority in the ’18 election. It now has 69 seats. It takes 63 to win a majority in the 124-seat legislature.

In 2015, Elliott ran for the leadership against present-day Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown. In 2009, she lost against Tim Hudak.

Elliott was the MPP for Whitby—Oshawa from 2007 to ’15, resigning that seat after the leadership-contest loss against Brown. She also represented the old Whitby—Ajax riding in 2006-07, winning a byelection after her late husband, Jim Flaherty, moved to federal politics. Flaherty, who died in 2014, was the first federal finance minister to serve under former prime minister Stephen Harper, and had the same role in Ontario during the Mike Harris era.

Elliott was not the only MPP with a significant profile who appears to be leaving elected politics, but she would be the only one whose profile has come from legislative work.

Independent MPP Randy Hillier, an anti-vaxxer who supported the Freedom Convoy occupation of Ottawa last month, announced Thursday he will not run in June. Hillier was the MPP for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston in eastern Ontario. He was elected as a Ontario PC candidate for the fourth time in 2018.

Ford booted him from the party less than a year into his mandate. The official reason was “disrespectful comments to parents of children with autism.”

The report that Elliott is resigning was first reported by CBC Toronto.

(Cover photo via The Canadian Press)

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