PC leadership hopefuls take heat in Ottawa

Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership contenders faced questions in Ottawa on Friday about inflated party membership lists and controversial nomination contests where cheating has been alleged.

Three controversial candidates call on leadership contenders to end 'the rumours and innuendo'

Christine Elliott, Doug Ford and Caroline Mulroney have thrown their hat in the ring to become leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives. (Chris Young, Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The three contenders in the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race are in Ottawa this weekend for an annual conservative conference as concerns about nomination races continue to swirl about the party. 

Allegations of cheating in several nomination races and inflated membership lists have added to the party's turmoil in the wake of the resignation of former leader Patrick Brown.

When asked about the need to "root out any rot" in the party, leadership contender Caroline Mulroney put the responsibility for the clean-up firmly on the shoulders of the party's interim leader, Vic Fedeli.

"I know that there are problems," said Mulroney. "I know he's focused on it and I trust him to do what he thinks the party needs.

"We need to be in the strongest position to be able to win on June 7. So I will defer to Vic Fedeli on these matters."

Controversial candidates release statement

Some PC supporters are urging the party to hold new nomination races in some ridings, including Ottawa West-Nepean, where witnesses allege ballot boxes were stuffed with illegal ballots and that members from out of town were allowed to vote. 

On Friday, PC candidates Thenusha Parani from Scarborough Centre, Karma Macgregor from Ottawa West-Nepean and Charity McGrath from Newmarket-Aurora released a joint statement denouncing the reports of wrong-doing at their nomination meetings. 

"We have learned today that there are actions being taken against a number of candidates by certain individuals based on​ ​rumours and innuendos. What's more, we have not been asked for or provided an opportunity to provide our perspective," states the release.  

The note calls on the current leadership candidates and interim leader Vic Fedeli to "put an end to this" so the candidates can focus on the election. 

These controversial candidates will be among those discussed when the party's nomination committee meets late Friday to decide if it will overturn some of the nomination decisions.

Progressive Conservative leadership contender Doug Ford is asked about the prospect of re-opening nomination races after cheating was alleged in some ridings. 0:27

Party is "pulling together," says leadership contender

Leadership hopeful Christine Elliot said she doesn't think it's time to start kicking people out of the party.

"I think what's happening now is the party is pulling together. So I think that everybody is really sincere in their desire to work together to pull the party together," said Elliot.

Blame for the party's current dysfunction is falling on former leader Patrick Brown, who resigned on January 24 after allegations of sexual misconduct.

Leadership candidate Doug Ford acknowledged in an interview on Friday that the party is in bad shape.

"I think Patrick has to take care of things. I think he did the right thing by stepping aside," Ford said.

"Our focus is going to be about Kathleen Wynne, not Patrick."