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Uncertain path ahead as Ontario PCs scramble to pick new leader

Ahead in the polls less than five months before the election, the Conservatives are suddenly rudderless. A long list of possible candidates to replace Patrick Brown is already emerging


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TORONTO—Faced with the shocking resignation of Patrick Brown, Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives must chose a new leader with less than five months to go before the spring election.

Patrick Brown resigned as party leader early Jan. 25 following a CTV News report in which two women alleged sexual misconduct during his days as a federal MP. The allegations have not been independently verified by The Canadian Press.


Without a leader at the helm, what will the PCs do?

The party’s caucus, or 27 members (excluding Brown), will meet Friday to appoint an interim leader and then discuss how to proceed as the legislative session resumes in late February. They will also looking at how to reconstitute the election campaign team which surrounded Brown after some resigned in the wake of the allegations against the former leader.


Is the sudden resignation of an Ontario party leader so close to an election unusual?

University of Windsor political science professor Cheryl Collier called it unprecedented and suggested the swift response was likely fuelled in part by a growing emphasis on addressing sexual misconduct claims voiced by women. Henry Jacek, political science professor at McMaster University, said things normally don’t happen that quickly in politics. He said Brown’s own staff were surprisingly fast to abandon him within moments of a hastily called news conference late Wednesday and four hours later he had stepped down.


What is next step for the party?

After appointing an interim leader the party will eventually need to select a permanent replacement for Brown. According to the Ontario PC Party constitution, the party’s governing document, the resignation of a leader triggers the selection of an interim leader by the party caucus. If they cannot decide on an interim leader, then the caucus in partnership with the party’s executive chose the interim leader.

Normally the party selects their leader at a convention where one delegate has one vote. The party constitution says after the resignation of a leader a leadership election must be held within 18 months. The constitution does not appear to lay out a minimum leadership campaign length but sources tell The Canadian Press the party has not held a leadership campaign shorter than 90 days in recent memory.


Who sets the leadership election rules?

The party’s executive sets the leadership election rules. The PC constitution gives that committee “exclusive authority” to interpret and apply the rules for the race and vote which means they could adjust the length of a leadership race to fit into a compressed schedule before this year’s election.


Can the Tories select a new permanent leader before the June 7 election date?

That depends. Sources say the Tories could choose a number of potential different routes to select Brown’s replacement. An interim leader could be selected until a permanent replacement is elected. An interim leader could be selected to fight the election and then step down. The interim leader could be selected, fight the election, and then face a formal leadership review after the race.


Who are the potential candidates to replace Brown?

The rumour mill at Queen’s Park is in overdrive with the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney and PC candidate, Caroline Mulroney, former Tory leadership candidate Christine Elliott and former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford all being floated as potential successors. Tory finance critic Vic Fedeli is the first declared candidate for the interim leadership and has expressed interest in staying on permanently.


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