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Ontario PCs to hold leadership race in March; Fedeli named interim leader

Last Updated Jan 26, 2018 at 6:57 pm EDT

Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives will hold a leadership race to replace Patrick Brown, who resigned this week in the face of sexual misconduct allegations.

The party’s executive voted Friday to hold the race and select a new leader sometime before March, ahead of the spring election.

Party president Rick Dykstra says the executive has not yet established a firm time frame for the race.

The executive’s decision runs contrary to the wishes of the party’s caucus, which named Tory finance critic Vic Fedeli as interim leader earlier in the day and wanted him to serve as permanent party leader through the upcoming election.

Fedeli is the party’s finance critic and represents the northeastern Ontario riding of Nipissing in the provincial legislature.

Grassroots party members and a number of candidates called on the executive to hold a leadership election to give them a voice in who would lead the provincial Tories.

Fedeli is the party’s finance critic and represents the northeastern Ontario riding of Nipissing in the provincial legislature.

The Tory caucus erupted in applause as Fedeli’s appointment was announced, with members chanting his name as reporters entered the room.

Asked how he was feeling about the appointment, Fedeli said “fabulous.”

Brown announced his resignation as party leader early Thursday, hours after emphatically denying what he called “troubling allegations” about his conduct and his character. The allegations, which have not been independently verified by The Canadian Press, were made by two women who spoke to CTV News.

Fedeli has called Brown’s alleged actions “deplorable.” He also said, however, that he “never saw anything that would have indicated any activity such as that” during the time he spent with Brown.

Fedeli entered politics in 2003 when he was elected mayor of his home town, North Bay, Ont. He served two terms as mayor before running, and winning a seat, for Ontario’s PCs in 2011.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, meanwhile, says she will not seek a snap election, noting that it’s too early to know what impact Brown’s resignation will have on the province’s political landscape.

The premier would not comment specifically on the allegations levelled against Brown but broadly denounced sexual assault and harassment.

When asked if she would consider changing the date of the provincial election, she said: “No. This is not about politics.”

“I think that many of us feel very shaken by what we heard last night,” Wynne said. “There are obviously lots of political questions that are going to come forward. I honestly feel that right now I’m thinking about this in my role as a mother, as a daughter, as a community leader.”

“It is really, really important that we understand how deeply troubling this is to human beings, to people. This is a human problem…this is about creating safety.”

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also said there was more at stake than the upcoming election.

“This is not about me and it’s not about my campaign,” she said. “This is about women coming forward and calling out behaviour that they experienced and I have to say I was pretty disgusted by what I heard in terms of their story.”