From the Star:
Tories back Smitherman
Published On Wed Sep 15 2010
Former provincial Liberal cabinet minister George Smitherman, trying to stop the Rob Ford mayoral juggernaut, has attracted endorsements from high-profile Tories, including Mike Harris-era cabinet ministers.
“We’re conservatives. He’s a Liberal,” begins an open letter titled “Why We Support George” that includes the names of almost 40 provincial and federal Conservatives, including former citizenship, culture and recreation minister Isabel Basset.
She circulated the email at the request of his campaign, said Stefan Baranski, a spokesman for the candidate and former Conservative communications aide who is himself a signatory. Others include Jamie Watt, a strategist and senior Smitherman campaign adviser.
“He’s tough. But he’s fair,” says the letter also signed by former ministers Charles Harnick (attorney-general) and Dan Newman (environment). He “is the only candidate who has said it’s the mayor’s job to create the climate where businesses will thrive and jobs will be created right here,” the signatories say.
Smitherman, an early frontrunner who is now trailing the penny-pinching Ford, recently promised conservative measures including a “war on waste” and a temporary freeze on property taxes.
“I believe in inclusiveness and I think (Smitherman) represents that in a big way,” Bassett said in a phone interview. “Just because he’s a Liberal doesn’t mean he can’t work with Conservatives and NDP — (city politics) is like a big tent.”
Bassett said she waited until former Ontario Conservative leader John Tory made clear his intention not to run before declaring support for Smitherman.
While popular with the grassroots, Ford has not attracted big-name Conservatives. At his campaign launch in March, Conservative MPP Christine Elliott said she was backing him, while her husband, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, said “it wouldn’t hurt to have a fiscal conservative as the mayor of Toronto.”
Ford did not respond to a request for comment.
As to why the list includes no sitting MPs or MPPs, Baranski blamed the fact that there are none elected in Toronto.
Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, the lone candidate on the left hoping to continue Mayor David Miller’s legacy, pounced on the news. “Mike Harris is back in the form of George Smitherman,” he said in a statement. “Why else would the Harris team have just endorsed him?”
While Conservatives often attacked Smitherman in the Legislature over his handling of the money-burning eHealth initiative, signatories including Conservative senators Nancy Ruth and Vim Kochhar lauded his work reducing hospital wait times and cutting nearly $600 million a year from Ontario’s health budget.
With files from David Rider