In one of those announcements that’s perhaps shocking but not surprising, Health Minister Christine Elliott has announced that she will not seek re-election in this spring’s provincial election. Elliott, who was twice considered the presumptive next leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, joins a growing list of MPPs from all parties that will not stand for re-election on June 2.
“After considerable reflection and discussion with my family, is it with deep gratitude for my 16 years in public life that I recently shared with Premier Ford I will not be seeking re-election in the upcoming provincial contest in June,” Elliott said in a statement released Friday.
Elliott alluded to the challenges of being a provincial health minister through the course of a global pandemic as the reason she was stepping down, but she also used her statement to give a tip of the hat to healthcare workers on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.
“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,” Elliott added.
Elliott also said that she will be staying on as health minister and as the MPP for New Market-Aurora until the next election, a move gratefully acknowledged by Premier Doug Ford in his statement thanking Elliott for her service.
“Christine has been by my side since the start of the pandemic. She remains instrumental in helping steer Ontario through one of the most difficult periods in our province’s history, especially now as we continue to protect our hard-fought progress and ease public health measures. I will continue to rely on her advice and counsel,” Ford said in a statement.
While Ford puts a happy face on losing another top minister, incumbency is start to look like a problem for the PC bench. Back in January, Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips announced his resignation with immediate effect, which forced Paul Calandra to fill the role, and before that former cabinet minister Jeff Yurek also announced that he wasn’t running again in 2022.
Nine other Progressive Conservative MPPs have also announced their intention to not seek re-election, and so are three NDP members, and former Premier Kathleen Wynne who currently sits as the MPP for Don Valley West. But with now 11 vacancies on Team Ford, all eyes are on the Premier in an attempt to prognosticate any political meaning. The man himself though appeared unworried.
“You can never replace someone like Christine but I feel moving forward that we have a better slate (of candidates) now than we did previously (in 2018),” Ford said at a press scrum Friday. “We have an all star team and we are just making it better. Nobody is going to fill Christine’s shoes 100 per cent but she is always a phone call away.”
There was another high-profile resignation from politics at Queen’s Park on Friday, and it’s independent MPP Randy Hillier. Although Hillier had previously announced his intention to form an Ontario branch of the People’s Party called the Ontario First Party, he has now decided that he’s found that a role in electoral politics is too limiting for his goals.
“Partisan politics has devolved into a cult of followers. Instead or providing genuine leadership for the commonwealth of people, our governments are increasingly destructive to the interests of many, while catering to the special interest of an elite few,” Hillier said in a statement posted on social media. “Our public institutions no longer serve the people, and we willingly relinquish our representative democracy for permanent stakeholder control.”
Hillier added that he’s returning to his “traditional root of grassroots activism” but didn’t explain in detail about what that means. It did make it clear though that he’s not completely abandoning the political-sphere.
“I have done everything in my power to inform the public of these creeping dangers, and to shift the dialogue toward re-asserting our freedoms and preserving our prosperous way of life,” Hiller said. “I am very grateful for all of the amazing supporters, volunteers, and friends that have accompanied me on this one journey.”
Jim Wilson and Lindsey Perk, who, like Hillier, were once part of the PC bench only to find themselves sitting on the opposition side of the legislature, have also announced that they will not be seeking re-election this June.