A look at some candidates who could lead Ontario PCs into the upcoming election
Vic Fedeli, Steve Clark, Lisa MacLeod, Caroline Mulroney, Christine Elliott, Rod Phillips.
After Patrick Brown resigned over sexual misconduct allegations, the PCs have less than four months to find a new leader before the next election campaign kicks off
Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown’s abrupt resignation in response to allegations of sexual misconduct has left the PCs with less than four months to find a new leader before the campaign kicks off for the provincial election set for June 7.
The scramble comes as the Tories had been leading the Liberals in most polls, and appeared poised to give the long-governing Liberals a serious challenge in the upcoming vote.
While the PCs appear to have no shortage of contenders, they will be forced to make some quick decisions. On Friday morning, the Tory caucus is set to meet to select an interim leader, which means the caucus will be selecting from its own ranks. That has the benefit of allowing for a quick decision as the election looms, but it may not be the person the party wants taking on the Liberals in the election.
After the interim leader is chosen, the party could rush ahead with a convention and allow the membership to vote for a new, permanent leader. This would allow for more candidates, but would leave members with little time to make an important decision.
Here are the top contenders from within the party’s caucus and from outside it.
The former two-term mayor of North Bay has already declared his interest in becoming the party’s next leader. He has been an MPP since 2011, and ran in the party’s 2015 leadership race before, withdrawing three months before the convention to endorse Christine Elliott, citing the “numbers.” Fedeli has served as energy critic and finance critic for the PCs, throwing himself into the latter role by regularly publishing a series of critiques titled “Fedeli Focus on Finance.” Brown had spent time focusing on the Northern Ontario front, and Fedeli had helped lead the charge, particularly when it comes to the development of the Ring of Fire mining region. While this may put Fedeli in a prime position among northerners, most of Ontario’s ridings — and Tory supporters — are in the south.
The MPP for the Eastern Ontario riding of Leeds-Grenville has represented the area since 2010 and is currently one of the deputy leaders of the PC Party, along with Sylvia Jones, the MPP for Dufferin-Caledon. Clark is also the critic for ethics and accountability, meaning that, when there has been a scandal for the Tories to attack, Clark is likely there to attack it. Clark was the mayor of Brockville for three terms, and had the distinction of being the youngest mayor in Canada at the time. Clark also supported business personality Kevin O’Leary in the federal Conservative leadership race, before the man known as “Mr. Wonderful” quit the race.
MacLeod has represented the Nepean-Carleton riding in Ottawa since 2006. She succeeded John Baird, who went on to be elected as a member of parliament (and for whom a “Draft John Baird” for PC leader movement has already sprung up). A powerful speaker both in and out of the legislature, MacLeod has been an effective critic of the Liberal government, and currently serves as the shadow treasury board president for her party. She ran for the PC leadership in 2015 and, like Fedeli, withdrew to endorse Elliott. Among her other work in the legislature, MacLeod has fought to increase awareness and enhance protocols around concussions in youth sports. She, along with former PC leader Tim Hudak, was also the subject of a $2-million libel lawsuit launched by Premier Kathleen Wynne after comments that were made ahead of the 2014 election. The suit was dropped in 2015. She quickly weighed in after the allegations were revealed last night, tweeting “these women deserve our support and thanks.”
The daughter of Canada’s 18th Prime Minister was acclaimed as the PC candidate for York—Simcoe in September and was widely seen as injecting some star power in the run-up to the 2018 provincial election. She worked as a lawyer and hedge fund manager before entering politics. Mulroney certainly has star power, and indeed, has already drawn a Twitter endorsement from Alberta Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, who tweeted Wednesday night, “from what I hear the wheels to replace Patrick are already in motion. Given that, Caroline should consider it.” Mulroney herself weighed in not long after the allegations against Brown came to light, saying in a statement that it was “a sad day,” but that “women across Ontario will continue fighting together. We are working to build a world where no woman ever has to say #metoo ever again.”
Elliott was an MPP from 2006 to 2015 and lost to Brown in the recent PC leadership vote by about 20 per cent. Despite the loss, Elliott had strong caucus support, collecting endorsements from nearly two-thirds of her colleagues in the race. In her nearly 10 years in Ontario politics, she served as both deputy leader and health critic. After she resigned from provincial politics following her loss to Brown, Elliott was appointed by the Liberal government as Ontario’s patient ombudsman. In that role, Elliott is “a champion for fairness” in the province’s health-care facilities, hearing and investigating complaints patients in the province. Elliott is also the widow of former Harper government finance minister Jim Flaherty.
In November, Phillips was nominated to represent the PCs in Ajax and, along with Mulroney, was seen as boosting the party’s star power for the 2018 election. Until November 2017, Phillips was also the chair of Postmedia, the country’s largest chain of newspapers, which includes the Ottawa Citizen and the National Post. He also served as CEO and president of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. under then-premier McGuinty.
With files from Geoff Zochodne