Businessman and former Toronto councillor Doug Ford says he is jumping in the race for leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

Ford made the announcement surrounded by family in Etobicoke Monday, saying he feels he needs to enter the race to save the party from “complete disarray.”

“I’ve been deeply troubled by what I have seen recently unfolding within the PC Party,” Ford said. “Lifelong supporters of our Party have been watching in horror as it falls into complete disarray.”

Ford slammed the recent unraveling of the party as “backroom politics at its worst” and said party elites have become “disconnected from the grassroots of the party” and don’t care about average Ontarians.

“Right now the party needs strong leadership. Someone who is ready to clean up this mess and lead us into the June election,” Ford said.

Until last week, Ford had said he planned to run for the mayor’s seat in Toronto’s municipal election in October.

But that changed last week when the sudden resignation of Patrick Brown triggered a leadership race.  

“I had every intention of running for Mayor of this great city but I can’t watch the party I love fall into the hands of elites,” Ford said Monday.

The leadership contest is expected to take place sometime in March, but a date has not bene set. Current interim leader Vic Fedeli has said he will run for the permanent leadership of the party.  Other names that have been floated so far include Caroline Mulroney, Christine Elliott and Rod Phillips

Ford served as a Toronto councilor for Ward 2 when his brother, the late Rob Ford, was mayor from 2010 to 2014. He unsuccessfully ran against John Tory to become mayor in 2014 after his brother became too ill to run for reelection.

Before either brother was in politics, their father, the late Doug Ford Senior, served as an MPP in the Mike Harris government in the late 1990s.

Doug Ford Junior has remained interested in provincial politics and has mulled a run for provincial office before.

Party in damage control

Whoever wins the leadership will be tasked with trying to pull the party together before Ontarians head to the polls in June.

The Ontario PC Party has been in damage control since sexual misconduct allegations against Brown came to light last week.  Brown denies the allegations, but nonetheless said he would step aside to deal with them so the party could focus on the June election.  

Then on Sunday the party’s president, Rick Dykstra, suddenly announced on Twitter that he will be stepping down. Two hours later, Maclean’s published allegations by a former federal Conservative Party staffer that Dykstra sexually assaulted her following a party in 2014 while he was an MP.

None of the charges against the men have been proven in court.