UPDATE 7:25pm Eastern: After Doug Ford’s victory was widely reported in the media, the PC Ontario leadership convention ended without a certified winner being announced. After explaining that “a list of certain electors is being reviewed,” party members and the media were asked to vacate the convention hall with more updates promised in future.
Doug Ford, the controversial candidate often described as Canada’s answer to Donald Trump, has won the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party in an stunning upset over favourite Christine Elliott.
Triumph of the Doug Ford Nation
Known for his straight-talking, populist rhetoric, Doug Ford entered the abbreviated leadership campaign in January vowing to take on the elites who run the province from the “swamp” in Queen’s Park.
Ford is certainly an outsider. His only previous experience in elected office was on the Toronto City Council between 2010 and 2014, where he served alongside his brother, Mayor Rob Ford. He ran for mayor himself at the end of his city council term, but came in second with 34% of the vote.
With a dedicated and energized supporter base known as “Ford Nation,” the main question that dogged the campaign was whether or not he could reach beyond his Toronto base and win votes across the entire province.
How we got here
It has been a difficult and topsy-turvy few months for the Ontario Tories. With the ruling Liberals in trouble in the polls, and a general election scheduled for June, the transition from opposition to government looked like a cinch at the start of 2018.
Then party leader Patrick Brown resigned in late January following a series of sexual misconduct allegations. Instead of running for the key race with an interim leader, the party made the bold decision to hold a snap, four-week leadership race.
Doug Ford announced his candidacy soon after nominations opened, but so did Caroline Mulroney, daughter of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and two-time PC leadership contender Christine Elliott. A third rival, social conservative Tanya Granic Allen, also thew her hat into the ring the next week.
Things briefly got very messy when the man who had instigated the leadership race with his resignation, Patrick Brown, decided to run for the leadership himself. But after ten days of constant criticizm he thought better and withdrew.
Despite Mulroney raising more money than any other candidate, Ford and Elliott emerged as the two front-runners. It was a hard-fought campaign, and as of Friday the two were both polling 35% in a Mainstreet Research poll, with Mulroney at 17% and Granic Allen at 12.5%.
As the party was using a preferential ballot system, and most pundits were expecting Elliot to win the lion’s share of second choice votes, the smart money was on Elliot winning comfortably after the final calculations were made.
Chaos in Markham, or just a sore loser?
Earlier today Ontario Progressive Conservatives gathered in Marham, a few miles outside of Toronto, to hear the results of online voting. The big announcement was expected at 1pm, but the deadline came and went with no announcement or update.
Hours passed with no explanation, but reports began to emerge on the CBC televised coverage of the event that the race was very close, and that party officials and lawyers for both Ford and Elliott were huddled in a room down a corridor from the main convention hall.
Just before 5pm, however, CBC’s Mike Crawley reported that Ford had won the race and the delay was caused when Elliot demanded a recount.
BREAKING: A senior official with direct knowledge of the results tells me that Doug Ford won the Ontario PC leadership race in the initial count and that Christine Elliott is demanding a recount. #onpoli #pcpoldr. pic.twitter.com/urSPg4s4bJ
— Mike Crawley (@CBCQueensPark) 10 March 2018
Crawley was able to confirm this news from several other sources, and soon cheers from the Doug Ford campaign could be heard from the convention floor.
As we file this report, Elliott has yet to concede. We will update this story as it happens, but after months of turmoil, the Progressive Conservatives desperately need an uncontested new leader.