TORONTO – Ontario’s official Opposition has appointed an interim leader to replace Patrick Brown, who resigned in the face of sexual misconduct allegations, but it remains unclear who will take the party through the spring provincial election.
Vic Fedeli, 61, was selected Friday morning by the Progressive Conservative caucus, which recommended he stay on to lead the party through the general vote but the ultimate decision will be made by the party executive.
Fedeli is the party’s finance critic and represents the northeastern Ontario riding of Nipissing in the provincial legislature.
Saying he was “honoured” by the interim appointment, Fedeli said he was ready to take the party through the election, suggesting a leadership race could be divisive at a time when the party needs to remain united.
“I am prepared to lead this party,” Fedeli said. “We need to focus immediately on Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals.”
The Tory caucus erupted in applause as Fedeli’s appointment was announced, with members chanting his name as reporters entered the room.
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.
The PC caucus will investigate how it dealt with allegations raised against Brown, Fedeli said, noting he would not support Brown remaining on as a Tory legislator if the allegations have not been addressed.
“If these allegations are standing at the time of the election I would not sign Patrick Brown’s nomination papers,” he said.
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.
VIDEO: Vic Fedeli has been named interim leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives after Patrick Brown’s resignation in the face of sexual misconduct allegations.