TORONTO – A timeline of the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race:
Jan. 24: Patrick Brown, then the leader of the party, calls a last-minute press conference to deny a pending news report about sexual misconduct allegations. He decries them as “categorically untrue.” Minutes later, CTV News airs a story in which two unnamed women make allegations of sexual misconduct against Brown dating back to his time as a federal member of parliament. The allegations have not been independently verified by the Canadian Press.
Jan. 25: Brown issues a statement in the early morning saying he will step down as party leader to focus on clearing his name.
Jan. 26: The PC caucus names Tory legislator Vic Fedeli as interim leader. Fedeli vows to root out the “rot” from within the party. The caucus further recommends that Fedeli carry the party through to the province’s spring election, but the party executive announces a leadership contest will be held instead, with a winner to be announced March 10.
Jan. 29: Former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, brother of the notorious late mayor Rob Ford, becomes the first person to declare his candidacy for the party leadership. He says he plans to wrest control of the party from elites and give a voice to the grassroots members.
Feb. 1: Former Ontario legislator Christine Elliott announces her bid to contend for the party leadership. Elliott came second to Brown during the last contest to select a new leader in 2015. Elliott is the widow of late federal finance minister Jim Flaherty.
Feb. 5: Toronto lawyer Caroline Mulroney, daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, ends days of speculation by announcing her candidacy for party leader.
Feb. 8: Social conservative and parental rights activist Tanya Granic Allen announces plans to join the leadership race.
Feb. 11: Brown publishes the first of several Facebook posts in which he vows to clear his name and questions the credibility of the women who brought allegations against him. He openly challenges the veracity of CTV’s reporting on its original story and points out discrepancies in the women’s accounts that he says prove their accusations are false.
Feb. 15: The leadership candidates meet for the first of two televised debates. During the conversation all four voice opposition to the Liberals’ increase to the minimum wage and reject a proposed carbon tax that would have been the cornerstone of Brown’s election platform had he remained as party leader.
Feb. 16: Brown joins the leadership race with less than an hour to go before a registration deadline. He says his name has been cleared and he wants to focus on getting Ontario back on track. Earlier that day, Fedeli announced Brown had been kicked out of Tory caucus.
Feb. 21: Brown’s quest to regain the Tory leadership is given the green light after the party nomination committee gives him a stamp of approval for a run in the spring election. The committee also approves Brown’s competitors in the contest, save for Mulroney who had previously been vetted when she secured a riding nomination in late 2016.
Feb. 26: Brown withdraws from the Tory leadership race, saying it has been difficult on his family, and his candidacy has distracted from the policy discussion needed for the party as it heads toward the spring election. His announcement comes hours after Ontario’s integrity commissioner says he has launched an investigation into a complaint filed by Tory legislator Randy Hillier into alleged misconduct by Brown.
Feb. 28: The party extends the deadline for members to register to cast a vote amid rising complaints that the necessary documents were not reaching people on time. The original registration deadline, set for March 2, is pushed back to March 5. Later that night, the candidates meet in Ottawa for the second and final televised leadership debate of the contest.
March 3: The party issues a further extension to the voter registration deadline, moving it to March 7, and also extends the deadline for casting an actual ballot to noon on March 9.
March 6: Ford, who had been raising questions about abortion access in the province, clarifies his position by saying that while he himself is pro-life, he believes the abortion matter is resolved. He pledges, however, never to muzzle members of the caucus if elected and allow them to vote with their conscience.
March 7: The party extends the voter registration deadline for a third time, setting it at 8 p.m. on March 8. Originally, voting was supposed to close on that day.
March 8: Ongoing challenges with mailing registration papers to party members leads to significant backlash on several fronts. Ford, alleging that party insiders are only getting the registration materials out to select members, says the election process was “not transparent.” He, Mulroney and Granic Allen all call for the Leadership Election Organizing Committee to push back the date of the vote. Committee Chair Hartley Lefton defends the process, saying it was passed by senior leadership in accordance with the party constitution. Later that day, lawyer Jeffrey Radnoff, representing a disenfranchised party member, files an injunction application in Superior Court in a bid to extend the race.
March 9: A Toronto judge hears arguments on the request to extend the voting period, but ultimately rejects the application, meaning the leadership race will end as planned on March 10.
March 10: After hours of delays, party officials announce they are reviewing the results of the election. Lefton tells a raucus crowd that the “allocation of a certain list of electors” needed to be resolved, as it could affect the final result.