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Brown scores convincing win in PC leadership race

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

TORONTO - 

Patrick Brown took the Ontario Progressive Conservatives by storm.

The so-called outsider defeated highly regarded Christine Elliott and her army of party stalwarts to become the leader of the Ontario PCs on the strength of thousands of new supporters.

“I think it’s well known I was not the choice of the party establishment,” he said Saturday, after his convincing win. “This was an effort to rebuild the party, reshape the party, to reflect modern Ontario.”

Brown, who will now resign his federal Conservative seat in Barrie, did not say where he would run provincially but promised to be in the House before the next general election in 2018.

Interim Leader Jim Wilson will continue to lead the party’s opposition in the legislature for now, he said.

Brown identified rising hydro prices and their negative impact on the economy as a key concern for the Tories to address under his leadership.

Outreach to Northern Ontario and groups that have not been traditional supporters of the party are also on the agenda, he said.

Ontario Progressive Conservatives chose their new leader through a one-member, one-vote system that nonetheless required broad support across the province for success.

Brown was able to sweep most of Ontario, taking ridings from downtown Toronto to Thunder Bay, and from London to Ottawa.

Elliott earned significant support but trailed from the very start as the voting results were announced at a convention Saturday.

She thanked her supporters and three sons, and urged the party to get behind Brown as the “future premier of the province.”

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, at the PC convention as a spokesperson for the Ontario Liberal Party, said Brown has been nowhere in lobbying the Stephen Harper government for infrastructure funding for the province.

Brown has collected his MP salary for the last eight months while campaigning for provincial leader but never stood in the House of Commons to push his Conservative Party to support Wynne’s infrastructure plan, Del Duca said.

The Liberals issued a statement in which they argued that the choice of Brown shows how “out of touch” the Tories are.

“His record speaks for itself — he is a radical Tea Party fundamentalist who is far outside the mainstream in this province,” Del Duca said.

Campaign Life Coalition said the organization’s members worked hard to secure significant support for Brown and intend to remain active in the PC Party.

Brown said the Liberals are up to their “same old, same old” tricks, trying to label him a radical.

The new PC Leader said he has “reservations” about the controversial new sex education curriculum, and said he believes the government should focus on reading, writing and math in schools.

“I’ve always said I’m a pragmatic conservative — I think that scares the Liberals, I think that unnerves them,” Brown said.

The Grits are worried about how much the PC Party has grown through this leadership process, bringing in supporters from public and private unions, from all parts of the province and from multicultural groups, he said.

“We now reflect the mosaic that is Ontario,” Brown said.

NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh said the Ontario PCs cannot be an effective opposition to the Kathleen Wynne government when their leader does not have a seat in the legislature.

Brown doesn’t represent a change from the old PC party, he said.

“We’re not expecting to see very much different,” Singh said. “In fact, we still believe that we’re the only true opposition in the House.”

Tory MPP Lisa MacLeod dropped out of the leadership race to support Elliott, but said the Liberals still have plenty of reason to be concerned about with Brown at the helm of the PC Party.

“Patrick Brown obviously has great loyalty among his supporters which will carry us into the next election. He has proven that he can organize across the province and if I were Kathleen Wynne I’d be genuinely concerned about his ability to connect with people,” MacLeod said. “We’re going to start a new chapter as of right now which is very exciting for the Ontario PC people.”

Brown acknowledged that he didn’t have the backing of most of the PC caucus and that harsh criticisms were expressed during the leadership campaign.

Former premier Mike Harris, the last Tory leader to take the party to a majority government, said divisions in a leadership race are normal.

“This is what happens when there are contests within families,” Harris said. “So I wouldn’t read too much into that.”

Brown said Laureen Harper, the wife of the prime minister, gave him some advice in the heat of the campaign.

“She said never harbour grudges and I certainly won’t harbour any grudges,” Brown said. “Frankly, those that performed and did great work for Christine, I look at them and say, ‘I’m excited to have their tenacity on my team.’” 

Who is Patrick Brown?

Newly elected Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown is a lifelong resident of Barrie, Ont.

The federal Tory backbencher is a lawyer and politician who has served as MP since 2006. The 36-year-old was also chairman of the GTA caucus for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

-Lists hockey, tennis, and marathon running as his interests

-Studied political science at the University of Toronto, followed by law school at the University of Windsor

-First elected to Barrie city council in 2000, at the age of 22

-Re-elected to Barrie city council in 2003

-Unsuccessfully ran in federal election for the first time at age 26, in the year 2004

-In 2006, he beat the Liberal incumbent and became the Conservative MP for Barrie.

-Served as a member of the standing committee on health

-Served as chairman of the Canada-India Parliamentary Association

-Received endorsements from MPP Monte McNaughton and Wayne Gretzky in the leadership race for the Ontario PCs


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