Federal Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt is not ruling out a run for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, days after stunning allegations of sexual misconduct forced former leader Patrick Brown to resign.
In an interview airing Sunday on The West Block, Raitt was asked whether she would consider jumping into the leadership fray and hinted the major factor for her will be whether the party allows members to decide for themselves who will be the new leader.
The Ontario PC caucus elected Nipissing MPP and party finance critic Vic Fedeli, 61, to fill Brown’s shoes in a hastily-assembled vote Friday, but it remains unclear whether Fedeli will be the one to lead the party into the provincial election in June, or whether a full leadership vote will be held that allows party members to choose their own leader.
“Process is going to be a very important consideration because I trust and I respect the caucus and I hope that the executive is considering all of those people who in good faith bought memberships, and they want a say in who the leader is,” Raitt said.
“I hope that when they’re choosing what the right process is going to be for a new leader, they take into consideration that there are 200,000 new members out there who have a keen interest in making sure that the Kathleen Wynne government is defeated in June. This is a very important choice they’re going to be making going forward, and we don’t have the luxury of waiting for another election.”
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Reports that the caucus wants Fedeli to lead the party in the June election has prompted backlash from some party members.
And to clarify who’s who: caucus members are elected members of provincial parliament who belong to an official party, while party members are individuals who buy and hold memberships in the party itself. Caucus members are always party members by virtue of representing a particular party, but party members are not part of caucus because they do not hold seats in the Ontario legislature.
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Most party leadership votes operate by allowing party members to vote for individuals who put their names forward in a party leadership race.
While Fedeli was among those caucus members who were expected to put their names forward for the leadership, several high profile women who have been described as possible contenders for the leadership are not members of the caucus: among them, Caroline Mulroney and Lisa Raitt.
Mulroney, a first-time PC nominee in the riding of York-Simcoe, put out a tweet on Friday calling for a leadership convention to be held that will allow all party members to vote for their next leader.
The resignation of Brown following allegations of sexual misconduct — which he denies — have sparked backlash from some columnists and individuals online who say he is owed due process.
They also suggest that the pendulum of the #MeToo movement has given too much power to women to make anonymous allegations.
Raitt was quick to shut down those kinds of comments and said that if workplaces have clear sexual harassment policies in place to investigate allegations, fears that some may be unfounded will quickly prove baseless.
“I know that there’s a lot of fear out there of people talking, ‘Oh, it’s very difficult to be a Member of Parliament these days, I’m going to worry about this and worry about that,'” she said, noting that such policies are in place to “ensure that you can’t have claims that are just there to be hurtful and when claims are valid and very concerning, they get dealt with in a rapid way.”
“If you have the right policies and processes in place, there’s nothing to worry about.”