The Ontario Progressive Conservatives are not ready to announce the results of their snap leadership election, a party official told a sold-out crowd of frustrated party members on Saturday evening.
Hartley Lefton, chair of the PC leadership election committee, told the packed convention centre in Markham, Ont., that there are 1,300 ballots under dispute, and that the party will reveal results “as soon as practically possible.”
“Unfortunately we don’t have access to the hall any longer. Members, I ask you to please go home to wait for results. We cannot stay here,” Lefton said.
Loud booing from Doug Ford’s supporters filled the hall as Lefton spoke.
Multiple sources told CBC’s MIke Crawley earlier Saturday afternoon that Ford had won the contest, but staffers from Christine Elliott’s camp have denied that a final result has been reached.
Caroline Mulroney and Tanya Granic Allen were also on the ballot.
The announcement of the results was indefinitely delayed because there’s confusion over which riding a number of ballots came from. Sources had said earlier it was due to a technical problem with one of the ballot counting machines, but that was not the case.
Elliott’s campaign demanded a manual recount of at least some of the ballots, sources told CBC News. That process has been completed, and Ford is still the winner, multiple sources say.
Polling heading into Saturday’s PC leadership convention suggested that it was a toss-up between the two.
Party officials say that voter turnout was higher than in any other leadership contest in its history, with 64,053 preferential ballots cast over the weeklong voting period, though 71,450 total members were registered. The previous record was 44,188 ballots cast in 2002.
Ford campaigned as an outsider with a distinct populist bent, telling reporters that he decided to run for “the people.”
For her part, Elliott was widely considered the top choice of moderate conservatives and centrists within the party. She previously ran unsuccessfully for the PC’s top spot in 2009 and 2015. She is not currently a candidate in any of the province’s 124 ridings.
Supporters of Doug Ford booed as a PC party official announced that no decision was going to be revealed to members gathered in the convention hall. (David Donnelly/CBC)
Problems with the voter registration process drew significant backlash from Ford, Mulroney and Granic Allen earlier this week. Ford said the leadership vote was “not transparent” and alleged that only select members were receiving their registration code in time to cast a ballot. He, Mulroney and Granic Allen all called for the party to extend the voting period, while Elliott declined to do so.
The matter, however, was settled on Friday afternoon by an Ontario Superior Court judge, who dismissed an injunction application from a disenfranchised party member to prolong the vote.
The 44-day leadership race was triggered by the January resignation of former leader Patrick Brown following allegations of sexual misconduct made by two women. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing and served CTV News, which first published the allegations, with a notice of libel.
His departure led to a power struggle in the PC’s top ranks and illuminated deep divisions within caucus. It also raised serious questions about the validity of the PC membership list which, according to Brown, ballooned under his tenure from some 12,000 to more than 200,000.
However, in a memo to staff last month, interim leader Vic Fedeli said that Brown had inflated the numbers by about 70,000.
In an address to members, Fedeli said that in the last several weeks, the party has grown to its strongest point in years.
Former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford was elected the new leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives on Saturday, multiple sources told CBC News. No official results have been announced by the party. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)
“Every single activist measure for our party is stronger today than it was six weeks ago,” he said to raucous applause.
Fedeli went on to warn that “disunity” within the party would be a gift to Liberals heading into the June 7 election, and he encouraged each candidate to get behind the new leader despite their differences.
“Stay together. Stay strong,” he said.
In a departure from traditional convention, all four campaigns have apparently agreed that none of the candidates will hold a media availability to speak to reporters once a new leader has been officially declared by party officials.