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Three years ago Christine Elliott was in Sudbury to support local PC candidate Paula Peroni and push for a PET scanner in the city.

“You still don’t have one yet,” she said Tuesday, following a meet and greet at the Apollo Restaurant on The Kingsway. “There has been a commitment for a scanner, but time goes by and this needs to be prioritized. It’s really important that there is a scanner here for Northern residents to have access to and that would be a priority for me.”

She’s back in the race now and, according to most polls, the frontrunner to replace Brown, who stepped aside amid scandal and then abandoned a brief comeback bid.

Unlike her rivals in the compressed leadership race, Elliott was a sitting MPP for nearly a decade and has that experience to draw upon.

“I think that because we have a general election in fewer than 100 days from now, it’s really important to choose a leader who can hit the ground running,” she said. “I’m ready to go right now and am the only one of the four candidates who has had experience at Queen’s Park.”

The former MPP was elected four times, she noted, and served for a half dozen years as deputy leader of the party.

Her late husband Jim Flaherty was finance minister at both the provincial and federal levels.

Elliott said she is no stranger to Northern Ontario and would ensure the region gets a fair shake from Toronto if she became premier.

“I would designate $200 million to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, up $100 million from the existing level,” she said. “And I would also like to look at the rules around access because I understand they are very prohibitive and very often there is money left in the fund.”

The leadership hopeful said $25 million of the NOHFC kitty would be targeted for socioeconomic development. “Some of it would be working in Indigenous communities and other parts of Northern Ontario where there are low income people living, to make sure they can get the supports they need to be able to operate their businesses and raise their families,” she said.

During her nine years as MPP, Elliott said she had the opportunity to travel the province, “including a number of trips to Northern Ontario.”

Should she prevail in the PC leadership contest, the candidate said she welcomes the chance to tour the region more and ensure its needs are met.

“I know people in the North often feel like they are left out,
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” she said. “I don’t want that to be the case. I want to make sure that we make decisions and formulate policy that is going to be of benefit to everyone in the province.”

Elliott has promised not to impose a carbon tax, but said she does have concerns about climate change and the environment.

“I would ensure we work with municipalities so that sewage isn’t emptied into our lakes and rivers,” she said. “And we want to make sure improvements can made to our parks so that everybody can enjoy them.”

The region may be known for its extractable resources like minerals and lumber, but Elliott said there is value, too, in conserving its trees and water for environmental reasons, as well as economic ones.

“Northern Ontario is beautiful, and I think tourism can be another great driver for economic growth,” she said. “I would definitely want to participate in that to the greatest extent possible by the province.”

After her midday visit to Sudbury, Elliott was bound for Sault Ste. Marie.

Some polls show a virtual saw off between Elliott and Doug Ford, who was in Sudbury last week, although the Elliott team claims its own polling puts her well in the lead, according to the National Post.

Asked Tuesday about the tight race, Elliott said her focus right now is simply to reach as many voters as possible with her message, while ensuring those who support her make their choice official through an online ballot.

“We are doing the work we need to do to make sure our members come out and vote, and I think that’s going to be the key to success,” she said. “We have a large number of people in ridings across the province that are in contact with our members either locally, to help them get registered, or going to their homes with a computer if people don’t have one.”

Votes are being registered exclusively online this week,
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with the winner to be announced at a convention this Saturday.