Liberal MPP Donna Cansfield's bid to become the first woman Speaker of the Ontario Legislature has received a considerable boost, with a senior Tory saying she will support her nomination.
Deputy Progressive Conservative Leader Christine Elliott told reporters she will second Ms. Cansfield's nomination on Tuesday, four days after Frank Klees officially withdrew from the race.
The veteran Tory MPP ended his bid for Speaker just three days after he launched it. Mr. Klees sent ripples through Queen's Park by defying Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak's request that no members of his caucus seek the job. Mr. Klees' election as Speaker would have changed the balance of power in the legislature, leaving the opposition Tories and New Democrats with 53 seats, the same number as the governing Liberals.
But it quickly became apparent that Mr. Klees faced an uphill battle. He withdrew from the race last Friday and will now serve as critic for Transportation and Infrastructure in Mr. Hudak's shadow cabinet.
Mr. Klees initially turned down those positions, and instead sought Ms. Elliott's role as Deputy PC Leader.
"He stands behind me as deputy leader," Ms. Elliott told reporters. "I think we're a strong united team."
Ms. Cansfield said in an interview that she spoke to Ms. Elliott some time ago. "I'm very pleased," she said.
Three other Liberal MPPs – Kevin Flynn, Dave Levac and David Zimmer – are also in the running for the prestigious job, with comes with an annual salary of $152,914 and an apartment in the legislature. The Speaker will be chosen by secret ballot in the next two weeks.
Ms. Cansfield said she has sent a letter to every MPP, seeking their support. But because voting is by secret ballot, she said it is difficult to determine how much support she has.
"Anything can happen," she said. But after spending time on both the back benches and front benches – she was previously energy minister – she said she feels she has the experience for the job.