TORONTO – Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives say they will select an interim leader on Friday to replace Patrick Brown, who stepped down amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
The party’s deputy leaders would not say, however, whether the person they choose would lead them in the scheduled June election or if a leadership race would be held before then, saying only that caucus members would need to have those discussions.
Deputy leader Sylvia Jones says the party is moving on and is focused on getting ready for the campaign.
Brown announced he was stepping down in a statement issued early Thursday morning, following a hastily called news conference in which he “categorically” denied what he called “troubling allegations” about his conduct and his character.
The allegations, which have not been proven in court, were made by two women who spoke to CTV News.
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.”