Elliott camp accuses Doug Ford of ‘erratic’ and desperate behaviour as PC leadership nears end

They often talk about how they have been friends — and political allies — for years.

But the bonds between Christine Elliott and seemed to be fraying rapidly Monday as the rivals for ’s Progressive make their final push in the abbreviated race.

Elliott’s campaign co-chair accused Ford of “erratic” and out-of-control behaviour, after the businessman claimed Elliott had forged a secret deal with former leader Patrick Brown to win over his supporters.

Ford had earlier blasted his long-time friend for alleged flip-flopping while a member of the legislature, and taking a supposed patronage job from Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne. The spat underscores evidence that the race has boiled down to a face-off between the pair, and between starkly different political styles.

A pollster tracking the race told Monday the contest is so close, he could not rule out a tie on .

The Elliott team claims its own polling puts her well in the lead, and that Ford is panicking as a result.

“Throughout the weekend, we really saw a Doug Ford,” campaign co-chair Todd Smith said on a conference call with reporters. “With his erratic and out-of-control behavior, I worry that if Doug was to lead our party, he would lead us to certain defeat.”

Smith was reacting to a Ford email to Conservatives Monday, alleging Elliott had made a deal with Brown to get his supporters onside in exchange for letting him run as a Tory candidate and reviving his promise to introduce a carbon tax.

Meanwhile, Ford also urged the party Monday to extend the online vote for a week past the Friday deadline and allow paper ballots, after widespread confusion and complaints about the electronic .

Brown’s sudden resignation Jan. 25 amid sexual misconduct charges triggered the leadership race, which he later joined as a candidate, before stepping aside last week. His platform for the June 7 election had included a tax on carbon emissions to comply with federal requirements, money he said would be turned over to Ontarians in the form of an income-tax cut.

All four of the other leadership hopefuls said they would rescind his carbon levy pledge.

Ford pointed to a comment by Elliott that “maybe in the future” Ontario would have such a tax as evidence she was wavering on the key issue.

“Christine might think I’m being mean,” he said in the Monday email. “I’m just making sure folks know before they vote. This is the Christine they’re going to get.”

Elliott insisted she has no intention of imposing a carbon tax, and that the quote only referred to the possibility of a future government doing so.

One source in the former Brown campaign team told the National Post that 70 to 80 per cent of the organizers and candidates who had backed him would go to Elliott, most of the rest to Ford, but that no promises were made.

The only publicly released poll of Conservative members — carried out last month by Mainstreet Research — showed Ford with a slight lead over Elliott, lawyer Caroline well back in third and self-described social-conservative Tanya fourth.

Mainstreet now finds Elliott slightly ahead in her of the electoral votes allocated equally to each riding, Ford just behind, Mulroney 15 points back of him, and Granic Allen last, CEO Quito Maggi said Monday.

Results of the online voting are slated to be announced Saturday.

Assuming Granic Allen drops off after the first ballot, the numbers suggest Ford would surge ahead on the second after picking up most of her votes, before succumbing on the final ballot when Elliott gains Mulroney’s supporters, said Maggi.

But the front-runners are so close, the outcome is anyone’s guess, he said.

“I would almost not even rule out a flat tie,” said Maggi. “We’re really going to see some drama on the 10th.”

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