February 12, 2018 – Since the sudden and stunning resignation of Patrick Brown as Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader on January 25th in the wake of multiple sexual misconduct allegations, the provincial Tories have been faced with a level of political turmoil and strife unprecedented in recent political memory. With only four months until the provincial election, party executives were left scrambling to fill the interim PC leadership position, announcing days later that they would hold a full-scale leadership election on March 10th, 2018.

Counsel has a breakdown of key events in the PC landscape since Brown’s resignation, as well as our take on the candidates currently vying for the PC leadership in what will be one of the shortest provincial leadership races in Canadian history.

THE TIMELINE

  • January 26, 2018: Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli is elected as Interim Leader by the PC-elected caucus in a unanimous vote and advises party executives that the caucus wants the Interim Leader to take the party to the general election
  • January 26, 2018: Notwithstanding, the PC Party executive votes for a leadership process and sets the official date of the leadership election
  • January 28, 2018: Party president Rick Dykstra resigns in advance of the publication of a Maclean’s magazine article about his own sexual misconduct allegations during his time as a federal MP
  • January 30, 2018: Vic Fedeli withdraws his name as a potential leadership candidate to focus on fixing internal party affairs
  • January 31, 2018: Doug Ford declares his candidacy
  • February 1, 2018: Christine Elliott declares her candidacy
  • February 4, 2018: Rod Phillips announces that he will not enter the leadership race, and will instead back Caroline Mulroney
  • February 4, 2018: Caroline Mulroney declares her candidacy
  • February 9, 2018: Tanya Granic Allen, President of the grassroots group Parents as First Educators, announces her intention to run
  • February 15, 2018: First televised leadership debate on TVO
  • February 16, 2018: Membership cut-off to vote
  • March 2-8, 2018: Online voting period
  • March 10, 2018: PC Leadership Announcement/Convention
  • June 7, 2018: Ontario provincial election

THE CANDIDATES 

Doug Ford
  • Entered the Race: January 31, 2018
  • Political Experience:
    • Former Toronto city councillor
    • Brother of late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
  • Analysis: Ford has name recognition, the loyal following of “Ford Nation”, and a well-defined populist political message that could pose as a real challenge for his competitors.
  • Match-up in a General Election: Doug Ford is the most polarizing of the candidates, and the one that many pundits believe the Premier is most eager to take on in a general election. Ford was the first of the leadership candidates to axe the carbon tax and commit to re-examining the Liberal introduced sex-education curriculum. Could Doug Ford’s campaign promise with a “responsible vision” for Ontario be enough to win a general election, or will the voters only remember the chaos that ensued at Toronto City Hall during the Ford era?
  • Caucus Endorsements:
    • Raymond Cho (Scarborough—Rouge River)
  • Website Link
Christine Elliott
  • Entered the Race: February 1, 2018
  • Political Experience:
    • Former deputy leader of the PCs and represented Whitby–Oshawa from 2006 to 2015
    • Ran for the PC party’s leadership twice but was defeated by Tim Hudak, and later by Patrick Brown
    • Appointed by Premier Wynne as Ontario’s first Patient Ombudsman
  • Analysis: The most politically experienced of her competitors, Elliott stepped down as Ontario’s patient ombudsman in order to run a third time for the PC leadership. She has the most caucus support, but it’s worth noting she had that support in her last two attempts. While she is seen as one of the most competitive candidates in a general election, she needs to work the grassroots to get out the votes for the leadership, as many could see her as representing the past versus the future. It’s clear she’s working hard to engage a broader swath of party members by coming out against the carbon tax and indicating she’s willing to re-open the sex-ed debate.
  • Match-up in a General Election: Elliott commands a lot of goodwill and respect, and would be a tough opponent for the Premier and Andrea Horwath. Her late husband, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, was well-respected by those of all political stripes, and that regard extends to Elliott as well. She might be the toughest to beat in a general election because the campaign would more likely revolve around the Liberal record than fear of her election among non-conservatives.
  • Caucus Endorsements:
    • Ted Arnott (Wellington—Halton Hills)
    • Lorne Coe (Whitby—Oshawa)
    • Ernie Hardeman (Oxford)
    • Michael Harris (Kitchener—Conestoga)
    • Randy Hillier (Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington)
    • Randy Pettapiece (Perth—Wellington)
    • Todd Smith (Prince Edward—Hastings)
    • Bill Walker (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound)
    • Jim Wilson (Simcoe—Grey)
  • Website Link
Caroline Mulroney
  • Entered the Race: February 4, 2018
  • Political Experience:
    • Mulroney has a law degree from New York University and work experience on Wall Street, but has never held elected office
    • Daughter of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
  • Analysis: Like Ford, Mulroney has huge name recognition that could serve to help her in the race, as well as party connections and an impressive business background. Her lack of political experience, however, could hinder her chances. Mulroney has picked up a significant number of Patrick Brown’s staff, as well as the manager of Andrew Scheer’s successful leadership campaign.
  • Match-up in a General Election: No one knows how Caroline Mulroney will perform in a general election. The Premier and Andrea Horwath would be eager to exploit her elite background, her lack of experience in Ontario politics and campaigning, and the fact that she’s spent most of her career in the U.S.
  • Caucus Endorsements:
    • Bob Bailey (Sarnia—Lambton)
    • Monte McNaughton (Lambton—Kent—Middlesex)
    • Norm Miller (Parry Sound—Muskoka)
    • John Yakabuski (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke)
    • Jeff Yurek (Elgin—Middlesex—London)
  • Website Link

While Parents as First Educators President Tanya Granic Allen announced her intention to run on February 9, she is (at the time of this writing) not yet an officially registered candidate. Assuming she fulfils the nomination papers and fee requirements to officially enter the race, early speculation suggests her candidacy could split the Ford vote.

Of course, the great uncertainty at the moment is how the candidates intend to maintain the package of promises in the People’s Guarantee without the revenue from the carbon tax they’ve all pledged to scrap.

New candidates have until February 16, 2018 to file the nomination papers and fees required to officially throw their hat into the ring.

For further information on what this means for your organization, please contact:

Caroline Pinto at 416.920.0716.