GRIMSBY, Ont. – The youngest-ever member of Ontario’s legislature will represent the Progressive Conservatives in next year’s provincial election.
Sam Oosterhoff, 19, was elected Nov. 17 in a byelection in Niagara West-Glanbrook, previously held by former party leader Tim Hudak.
PC party members in the new Niagara West riding – one of several being redistributed for 2018 – voted Tuesday evening. Oosterhoff defeated regional councillor Tony Quirk, who challenged Oosterhoff again for this nomination despite having helped run the teen’s byelection campaign.
He secured the previous nomination by defeating Quirk and party president Rick Dykstra.
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown acknowledged Oosterhoff’s Tuesday evening.
“Congratulations to @samoosterhoff on being renominated as our @OntarioPCParty candidate in Niagara West. #onpoli,” he wrote on Twitter.
Brown previously said he is supporting Oosterhoff, as he is backing all of his caucus members in any contested nomination battles.
Oosterhoff landed at the legislature making waves not only for being so young, but also for espousing social conservative views at a time when Brown is trying to brand the Tories as inclusive and socially progressive.
Anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition is endorsing Oosterhoff for the nomination, writing in a statement that they worked hard to get him elected and need his social conservative voice at the legislature.
“He’s stood by his principles as a pro-life/pro-family MPP despite pressure to conform to the liberal-progressive culture of death,” the group said.
The coalition also previously endorsed Quirk as representing their values, but now they are not so sure, citing local media interviews he has done as “cause for concern.”
Oosterhoff wrote on Twitter of the endorsement that, “It’s great to be part of a big-tent party!”
Oosterhoff has declared he is “100 per cent pro life,” campaigned against the Liberals’ updated sex-ed curriculum, and opposed a new law that gives more rights to same-sex parents. He was sworn in the day after a vote on that law, avoiding a potential clash with his brand new caucus, but since then has mostly flown under the radar at the legislature.
Brown publicly split with social conservative elements of the party after he flip-flopped on a pledge to repeal the new sex-education curriculum.
He expressed displeasure that caucus member Monte McNaughton continues to court sex-ed opponents, another doesn’t believe in evolution, and a third was sent for sensitivity training after making misogynistic “jokes.”
PC deputy leader Steve Clark said there’s no truth to Campaign Life’s assertion that Quirk’s bid is a “party establishment” attempt to oust Oosterhoff. Brown has been clear on where the party stands on social issues, and that hasn’t been what Oosterhoff has focused on at the legislature, Clark added.
“What I’ve seen in his time here is he’s stood up for his community – the first day he was here he stood up for health care in his riding,” he said.
“I think Sam is an excellent MPP. I think he’s got broad support in his riding and I think he’s going to be successful tonight and I look forward to continuing to work with him.”
The Tories pointed out that several Liberal backbenchers have “green light” endorsements from Campaign Life, such as Joe Dickson, Lou Rinaldi and Mario Sergio.
With files from Nick Westoll