Tory to stay on as Ontario PC leader

John Tory says he will stay on as leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives, despite receiving a lukewarm endorsement of his performance from party delegates earlier in the day.

Convention follows last fall's disastrous election loss

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory announced late Saturday he was staying on at the party's helm, despite receiving a lukewarm endorsement of his leadership from delegates earlier in the day.

Tory won the backing of just 66.8 per cent of delegates in a confidence vote held at the party's annual meeting in London, Ont. Of the 1,308 ballots cast, 874 voted against holding a review of Tory's leadership.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory, seen here with his wife Barbara Hackett following Saturday's vote, has faced heavy criticism for his party's dismal showing in the October provincial election. ((Dave Chidley/Canadian Press))

Tory has been under fire from a number of party activists who believe his decision to propose full funding to religious schools cost the party the provincial election last October, which also left Tory without a seat in the legislature.

Immediately following the vote, a visibly tired Tory called the result at the party's annual meeting a "large majority," but said he need some time to reflect on what he would do next.

Three hours later, Tory emerged from a meeting with former Ontario premier Bill Davis and his family to announce that he planned to stay on as leader.

Before the crucial vote, Tory urged party delegates not to give the governing Liberals an advantage by triggering a leadership review. He also took responsibility for the disastrous election results, which gave Dalton McGuinty's Liberals another term in power.

"I let our caucus and party down, and most of all, I let the people of Ontario down," Tory told the packed ballroom. "For that, I am sorry. But more than that, you have my solemn promise that it won't happen again."

Tory also pledged to keep the religious schools funding issue off the party's platform while he remained leader.

Tory 'deserves an opportunity': former premier

Some delegates expressed bitterness about the setup of the meeting, in particular the fact they weren't given a chance to openly debate Tory's leadership because they can't publicly question him until after the crucial vote on whether he should be subjected to a leadership review.

Former Ontario premier and PC leader Ernie Eves, who attended the meeting as a delegate, defended the man who succeeded him, saying he thinks Tory deserves another chance.

"He's a very hard-working guy and he's done a lot of good things," Eves said. "There will always be people in the party who aren't happy with the leader. I know that all too well from personal experience. I think he deserves an opportunity."

But Roland Willis, a Mississauga lawyer and delegate, said it was time for Tory to step aside.

"Please go away," Willis said. "Please don't bother our party anymore."

With files from the Canadian Press