The interim leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives says his party is ready to move on from a period of “unprecedented” internal tumult after Patrick Brown gave up his bid to reclaim the Tories’ top job.
In a news conference Tuesday morning, Vic Fedeli appeared set on distancing the party from the controversy surrounding Brown’s abrupt January resignation and his short-lived campaign to regain the leadership.
“The last 10 days have been unprecedented in Ontario’s politics,” Fedeli said. “No one will question that it has been a difficult time for our party. But we are now ready to turn the page.”
Fedeli would not answer questions related to his decision to turf Brown from the party caucus earlier this month, nor would he say whether Brown will be allowed to run as a Tory candidate in the province’s spring election.
“We have a new leader in 11 days and I will absolutely stand by any decisions made by the new leader,” he said.
Four candidates now remain in the Tory leadership race — former legislator Christine Elliott, lawyer Caroline Mulroney, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford and parental rights advocate Tanya Granic Allen. They will face each other in a debate Wednesday in Ottawa, with online voting for the party leadership starting on March 2.
The party will announce its new leader on March 10.
Fedeli insisted the party has never been in better shape and is ready to form government, despite the internal tumult that has consumed the province’s official Opposition since Brown’s sudden resignation.
“Our party has always been about party unity,” he said. “We’ve moved on. Our focus now will be on the leadership contest on March 10 and the general election. We have never been in a better position than we are today.”
Brown resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct that he has repeatedly denied.
After mounting a campaign to clear his name, Brown announced he would join the four other candidates in running to lead the party. But he backed out of the race Monday, saying his candidacy had become too hard on his family and had become a distraction to the party.
“It has become increasingly evident that my participation in this democratic race has, for some, become a source of distraction from the real goal of replacing this tired Liberal government with a pragmatic, moderate, fiscally responsible alternative,” Brown wrote in a four-page letter posted on social media.
“I am calling on the remaining leadership candidates to put thoughtful, considered, affordable, pragmatic public policy first.”