Rick Dykstra steps down as Ontario PC party president amid major staff shakeup
In a statement posted to Twitter Sunday evening, the Grimsby, Ont.-born politician said he was looking forward to seeing the party rejuvenate its leadership and defeat the Wynne Liberals in the upcoming election.
“Since March 2016, I have been pleased to serve as president of the Ontario PC Party.
While volunteering for this role, I have watched the party grow in ways we have not seen in decades. We reached historic numbers. We attracted top-notch candidates to step forward to run. And we have watched momentum build up in every region of the province to defeat the Wynne Liberals in the election.
It has been a wonderful experience to watch the party’s renewal, and over the next couple of months we will see the party coalesce around a new Leader.
As this process unfolds, I have made the decision to step aside as President and take a step back for someone else to lead us through the hard work.
After two years in this position, I know the party is prepared to take on the hard work necessary to fight this election.
Dykstra’s statement came just hours before Maclean’s Magazine published allegations that he was accused of sexually assaulting a young Conservative staffer in 2014, when he was a federal MP.
Maclean’s said the staffer reported the incident to Ottawa police in 2014 and that the incident occurred after a post-budget party.
Dykstra made no mention of the alleged assault in his statement. The allegations against him have not been proven in court, and have not been independently confirmed by Global News.
On Monday, interim PC leader Vic Fedeli said he is “shocked and disgusted” by the allegations against Dykstra. Fedeli said he will take steps to ensure the workplace is safe for party members and staffers in the wake of the allegations, and will move forward with finding a new president.
Dykstra’s resignation comes amid rumours of a brewing power struggle within the party, following the resignation of party leader Patrick Brown amid sexual misconduct allegations last week.
Earlier Sunday, Global News obtained a letter, circulated to party members, expressing concern that a faction of the party was looking to reverse the executive’s decision to hold an open leadership race.
The letter appeared to suggest that Dykstra, an advocate of an open leadership race, was in danger of being forced out.
“We cannot let this happen,” read the letter. “As you know, our Executive is made up of volunteers who are donating their time and expertise to ensure the membership is properly represented. We must show the Executive, and our President, that they are not alone in this decision.”
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The decision to hold a leadership race ran contrary to the wishes of the party’s caucus, which named Tory finance critic Vic Fedeli as interim leader and wanted him to serve as permanent party leader through the upcoming election.
Fedeli can run in the leadership race and declared his intention to be a candidate, noting he respected the executive’s decision.
Dykstra’s resignation was also part of a larger staffing shake-up earlier in the day.
Two key members of the party who resigned after the allegations surfaced have now returned while multiple other positions are being slashed, according to a memo from one of the staffers that was obtained by the Canadian Press.
The party’s chief of staff, Alykhan Velshi, and director of communications, Nick Bergamini, were two of four key party members who announced their resignations minutes before the allegations against Brown came to light on Wednesday night.
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An email sent to party staff by Velshi on Sunday outlined his and Bergamini’s return to their previous positions, while also announcing that many high-level positions would be eliminated in a “reorganization” following the Brown debacle.
An executive director position, two deputy chief of staff positions, a party adviser position, and a number of junior and mid-level jobs are being eliminated.
“With any change in leadership comes a need for reorganization,” Velshi wrote in the email. “While reorganizations are always difficult, they are also sometimes necessary.”
Velshi underlined that the decisions had nothing to do with Fedeli’s own campaign objectives to become the party’s next leader ahead of a provincial election in June.
“At no point did (Fedeli’s) campaign team attempt to influence or interfere in those decisions,” wrote Velshi. “Responsibility for any recommendation is mine alone.”
— With files from the Canadian Press
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