3 key moments from the 1st Ontario PC leadership debate

Tanya Granic Allen ripped Patrick Brown, Doug Ford and Caroline Mulroney suggested pot should be sold on the private market and Christine Elliott was needled on a past vote.

Questions on Patrick Brown, marijuana sales and sex ed highlight divides among candidates

The four candidates hoping to lead Ontario's PC party into the spring election went head-to-head on Thursday in Toronto. (The Agenda/TVO)

Tanya Granic Allen ripped Patrick Brown, Doug Ford and Caroline Mulroney suggested pot should be sold on the private market and Christine Elliott was needled on a past vote. 

And this was only the first debate of the Ontario PC leadership race.

Here are three of the more heated exchanges between the four candidates during the hour-long debate in Toronto.

Tension over Patrick Brown

Patrick Brown stepped down as PC leader in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct. Now, he's trying to clear his name. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

Patrick Brown wasn't in the debate, but was the subject of several questions. First, the candidates were asked whether or not they'd allow Brown to run for their party in the wake of the sexual misconduct accusations against him.

Both Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney said they would allow that if the allegations against him are proven false.

"If he can clear his name, then he can run," Mulroney said.

Ford said he wants to get the facts and sit down with Brown before making a decision. "I'm not going to litigate this in front of the media," he said.

"I'm shocked to hear this," Tanya Granic Allen said after hearing the other responses.

She says Brown shouldn't be allowed to run, not because of his alleged misconduct, but due to what she called the corrupt way he handled the party. She said he has "run this party into the ground."

TVO's Steve Paikin, who hosted the debate, challenged that, noting the party is leading in the polls and holding a fundraising advantage — indications Brown was doing well. He then asked all four if they believed Brown had been "done in," possibly by forces within the party.

Granic Allen responded, "What does it matter?"

The other candidates offered neutral answers. Elliott said "I have no idea," while Mulroney only said there are many good people in the PC party. Ford said nothing.

Marijuana on the private market?

With legal weed arriving in August, the candidates were asked whether they opposed the government's plan to control its sales — as it does with most alcohol. Mulroney and Ford both raised their hands when Paikin asked if there were any "quasi-libertarians" in the group.

"Yes, I think that the private sector is better placed to do it," Mulroney said.

But, she added, there needs to be more consultation on the matter and she wants to know how the Liberals came to the decision they did.

Doug Ford and a group of his supporters arrive for the first Ontario PC leadership debate. Ford says he doesn't think the government should have a monopoly on marijuana sales. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Ford called it an "emerging market," before adding "I don't like the government getting involved. I don't like the government having a monopoly on any business."

A clash over conversion therapy

Granic Allen, the last-minute addition to the debate who is best known for opposing the sex-ed changes, took aim at Elliott in the debate's final moments.

After boasting that she doesn't have the same baggage as the other candidates, she asked where they were when Premier Kathleen Wynne was "ramming through crazy policies."

She then attacked Elliott for supporting Bill 77, which bans health professionals from providing any treatment aimed at changing a youth's sexual orientation or gender identity — something many called "conversion therapy." The practice is widely discredited and both critics and Ontario's health minister have warned it can harm patients.

Granic Allen argued that's not fair to limit the treatment options available to parents who have a "gender confused" child. "That vote that you made overrode parental choice," she told Elliott, the former MPP for Whitby-Oshawa.

Elliott replied that "not everybody lives the same kind of life. I respect that."


John Rieti

Senior producer

John started with CBC News in 2008 as a Peter Gzowski intern in Newfoundland, and holds a master of journalism degree from Toronto Metropolitan University. As a reporter, John has covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. He now leads a CBC Toronto digital team that has won multiple Radio Television Digital News Association awards for overall excellence in online reporting. You can reach him at