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Local MPP says no to top job 0

John Yakabuski will not be seeking the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party.

The Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP announced Tuesday that after much thought, he has decided not to pursue the top spot in the party at this time.

"After careful consideration, and much discussion with those closest to me, I have decided that I will not seek the position of leader of our party," Mr. Yakabuski said.

The commitment which would be required to lead the party through the next two years to the 2011 election and beyond would have taken him from his constituency and his family for prolonged periods of time.

"You never say never," he said, noting he hasn't shut the door on any future leadership run, but for now a bid doesn't mesh with his current plans, both for representing his riding and for being there for his family.

"The reality is I don't know what the future is going to bring," the MPP said. "But for now, this is something that I do not feel prepared to do given the physical distance of my home in Barry's Bay and the demands of travel that it would involve."

Ever since PC leader John Tory resigned after losing a byelection on March 5, the local riding has been buzzing with speculation over what Mr. Yakabuski would do as the race to succeed the leader heats up.

Prominent Tories Tim Hudak, Christine Elliott, Randy Hillier and Frank Klees are widely expected to run in a leadership race due to wrap up June 27 at the party's leadership convention in Markham.

MPP Bob Runciman is in the driver's seat as interim leader until a new one is installed by July 1.

Mr. Yakabuski said he didn't arrive at this decision lightly.

"If you're going to run for the leadership, you run with the intention of winning," he said, and must be prepared to accept the obligations and consequences of leading the party.

"The reality is, given the shortness of time between the leadership race and the next election in 2011, it would require me to be away for all of that time," Mr. Yakabuski said, working hard across the province to secure a win.

The centre of that effort would be in the Toronto area where the majority of seats are found, meaning if he was leader, he would have to live in Toronto for the next two and a half years, a sacrifice he isn't prepared to take at this time.

"The distance it would put between me and my family was of paramount importance in my decision as well," Mr. Yakabuski said, as well as being isolated from his constituency.

One other factor is the importance as Energy Critic of staying focused during a crucial time in the province; the coming of the Green Energy Act. The MPP said the act affects more than a dozen other pieces of legislation and has the potential to shake the province to its core. It is thus important someone acts to hold the government accountable.

"There is a lot of work here," as the Green Energy Act is finalized over the coming months, and Mr. Yakabuski hopes the province will take into account the concerns of rural Ontario while hammering it out.

"The government will get what it wants at the end of the day," he said, "but I hope they do take into consideration all views."

"My job is to make sure they do." Mr. Yakabuski said he was honoured

to receive the backing of constituents, stakeholders and others who encouraged him to seek the leadership, and thanked them all for their support.

He said his focus will continue to be on the people of Renfrew-Nipissing- Pembroke and all who count on him to be their voice at Queen's Park.

Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer reporter


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