Ontario Progressive Conservatives elected Patrick Brown as their new leader today, ending a long and divisive contest as the party works to forge a new vision and challenge Kathleen Wynne's ruling Liberals.
"This is a great day for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario," Brown rejoiced after the votes from delegates were announced Saturday at the Toronto Congress Centre.
'This is a great day for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.' - Patrick Brown
Brown, a Barrie member of Parliament, defeated MPP Christine Elliott, the wife of the late federal finance minister, Jim Flaherty. Elliott was the deputy party leader and is the MPP for Whitby-Oshawa.
Brown said Elliott fought a strong and tireless campaign.
Party members cheered as Brown, 36, was declared the winner.
"We have completed a rigorous leadership campaign. Unlike some parties, we do not anoint our leaders," he said, pausing for cheers from the crowd. "We test them, and this has been a long test."
Affordable energy, improved roadways
Brown spoke directly to his supporters, which included many ethnic communities that backed his campaign. He gave a special thanks to rural Ontarians, saying there is a reason he travelled to northern Ontario four times.
"Northern Ontario matters," he said. "We will be present. We will be active. We will build policy crafted by northerners."
He said Ontarians deserve better than the current ruling Liberal government. Brown promised his party would be one that Ontarians can believe in and one that would put their priorities first.
Brown said he wants to make the province the easiest place to invest, not the most difficult.
He has spoken with business owners who chose to expand their services in the United States rather than domestically because they can not afford energy costs in Ontario. Brown said affordable energy will be one of his main priorities.
Other priorities will include improving roadways, and building safe and rapid transportation.
Brown also promised to create an education system that prepares students for jobs that exist in today's economy.
"There are jobs that exist in this province," he said, adding that schools need to do better at graduating students ready to fill those positions.
Brown said he was excited to build a better and greater Ontario — and win the next provincial election.
The PCs have not won an election in Ontario since 1999.
Voting across Ontario
PC officials say 76,587 members were eligible to vote during the two days the polls were open this past week.
Brown defeated Elliott by more than 2,500 electoral points in the final count, according to results released by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.
Here's how the vote worked:
- While every PC member got one vote, leadership race rules assign equal weighting to each of the province's 107 ridings. Each riding was given a total of 100 points.
- To win, a candidate had to secure 5,292 points.
When membership sales closed at the end of February, the Brown campaign claimed to have signed up about 41,000 members and the Elliott camp said it had 34,000.
Brown said he managed to engage diverse groups in the party, including firefighters, nurses and young people.
The party's previous membership worried Brown. He said it did not reflect modern Ontario.
This new, vibrant membership bodes well for the party, he said.
Elliott congratulated Brown, and wished him success "as leader and future premier of Ontario," in a statement released shortly after her defeat.
"I am confident that Progressive Conservatives will unite behind Patrick's leadership," she said. "Our party will restore Ontario's place as the economic powerhouse of Canada."
The race focused mainly on the question of who in the PC Party is best suited to defeat Wynne, rather than on questions of policy.
Elliott, 60, received the lion's share of big-name endorsements, including former premier Bill Davis, the vast majority of the PC caucus, as well as former Toronto mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug Ford.
Brown dismissed a suggestion made by Elliott during the campaign that social conservatives would take over the party now that he's leader.
He also promised not to reopen the abortion debate.
Will resign MP seat
Brown said he would speak to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as soon as possible about resigning his seat in Parliament. Brown serves as MP for Barrie. He was first elected to the House of Commons in 2006 as a Conservative MP. He was never appointed to cabinet.
Brown didn't say when he would try to win a seat in the Ontario legislature. But, he did say it would be before the 2018 provincial election.
Brown becomes the fourth person to head the party in 12 years. He will replace PC leader Tim Hudak. Hudak resigned shortly after the party lost its second election to the Liberals last June.