Toronto’s Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday is off the clock, now that he’s accepted the Progressive Conservative nomination to run in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore provincial byelection.
“I’ll be taking a leave of absence,” said Holyday, after telling reporters that as of Thursday, July 4, afternoon he would no longer be drawing a city paycheque although he would still attend council and cast a vote.
“I think a leave of absence means you just don’t get paid.”
Holyday will have a busy month.
In addition to voting at council and continuing to serve as Mayor Rob Ford’s deputy, he’ll be on the campaign trail with Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak, attempting to establish a beachhead in Etobicoke-Lakeshore for the PC party, which currently has no Toronto MPPs.
“There haven’t been Conservative seats in Toronto in 10 years, and I think it’s high time there were,” he said. “I’m willing to try.”
The race will pit Holyday against fellow councillor and executive committee member Peter Milczyn, who is running in the riding for the Liberals, to fill the seat vacated by Liberal Laurel Broten. In a release Thursday, Milczyn congratulated Holyday on being named the PC candidate and also noted he too will return his salary to the city for the duration of the campaign.
The Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding has been held by Liberals provincially for the past decade.
Holyday said he was approached by Hudak and other PC members to turn that around.
“It’s not an easy undertaking — Peter Milczyn is a good candidate, but the history of that riding has been NDP, Conservative and Liberal,” he said. “Right now it’s federally Conservative.”
Holyday is running with the explicit support of Mayor Ford, who Wednesday said he would work hard to help him win the election in south Etobicoke. Both Ford and Holyday have been outspoken in their criticism of the Ontario Liberals.
Holyday acknowledged that his role in an opposition PC party would be diminished from his current role as the second in command to the mayor of Toronto.
“Toronto deserves a fiscally responsible voice,” he said. “It’s not always about sitting on the front bench or being a cabinet minister. I sat here for a long while without having an official position and still managed to get my ideas out.”
Holyday has been an elected municipal politician since 1982, during which time he served as an Etobicoke councillor, the Mayor of Etobicoke and a City of Toronto councillor.
He has also been highly critical of councillors who use municipal office as a stepping stone to higher elected office.
He was sharply critical of Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow, when as a councillor she sought the NDP nomination federally just months after having been elected locally.
Holyday moved a motion at the time, suggesting that councillors making the leap should be made to resign their office before accepting a nomination for another level of government.
Holyday won’t be resigning this July. But he maintained that his situation was different than Chow’s.
“Olivia Chow got herself elected in the fall then immediately went out and sought the nomination from the NDP,” he said.
“This isn’t something I planned, I hadn’t contemplated doing this until two or three days ago.”
If Holyday does prevail in the Aug. 1 byelection, he will have to resign and Mayor Ford will have to find a new deputy mayor.
Holyday acknowledged that he had done a great deal of heavy lifting during the past term of office, and said he wasn’t sure of the impact of his possible departure — particularly if the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, also makes a leap to Queen’s Park as he has promised.
“Rob’s a surprising individual and I don’t know what effect these things would have on him,” said Holyday. “It will change the picture here slightly but Rob’s on a mission and he’ll go forward.”