Vic Fedeli says he has no regrets as interim PC leader

As Ontario's Progressive Conservative interim leader Vic Fedeli prepares to hand off the party to a new leader on Saturday, he says "the state of our party is strong" and he has no regrets about any decisions he made. Those decisions include kicking Patrick Brown out of caucus.

Next PC leader inheriting a strong party despite turmoil, according to Fedeli

Ontario PC party interim leader Vic Fedeli speaks after a caucus meeting at Queen's Park in Toronto on Friday, January 26, 2018. Fedeli was named interim leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives after Patrick Brown's resignation in the face of sexual misconduct allegations. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Ontario Progressive Conservative interim leader Vic Fedeli says he's handing off a party to the next leader that's in  "strong" shape and he has no regrets about decisions he made while at the helm.

In an interview in his office at Queen's Park on Tuesday, an office that used to be occupied by former leader Patrick Brown, Fedeli said the past few weeks have been "exciting" for his party and that all the turmoil since Brown's sudden resignation will soon be a thing of the past. 

"In a week from now, we're going to rally behind a new leader and this will all be something that no one will ever be interested in again. It will all be about the issues going forward," he said.

Some people will describe what happened as an "interesting chapter," Fedeli said, but the real issue is the upcoming election in June and beating Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Wynne will face either Tanya Granic Allen, Christine Elliott, Doug Ford or Caroline Mulroney. Voting began last week and the winner will be announced Saturday at an event in Markham, Ont. 
Vic Fedeli gives an interview to CBC News and Radio-Canada in his office at Queen's Park on March 6, 2018, as he prepares to hand off to a new leader on March 10. (Julie-Anne Lamoureux/Radio-Canada)

Fedeli said he doesn't regret not entering the race himself, which he was considering but decided against after assuming the interim leadership. Fedeli said he determined early on that his role would be getting the party ready for the June election instead.

Clean bill of health

"I'm happy with that decision, I'm happy with what's been done over the past almost 40 days and now I look forward to serving our new leader after Saturday in whatever capacity that new leader asks me to serve in."

When Fedeli was chosen interim leader on Jan. 26 he pledged to fix the party's problems and "root out any rot" that was manifesting itself.

A little more than a month later, he said his mission has been accomplished and that he's giving the party "a clean bill of health."

That's what he told his caucus earlier on Tuesday when he spoke to them and invited the media to listen. 

"The state of our party is strong," he told his MPPs. He outlined some of the actions he took while leading the party. Fedeli said he reined in excessive spending, in part by cancelling contracts for "unknown services," and by ending a legal battle with a party member. He also said the party's IT system has been upgraded and is now robust. It was hacked last year.
Ontario PC leadership candidates, from left, Tanya Granic Allen, Caroline Mulroney, Christine Elliott and Doug Ford at their second debate in Ottawa. The new leader will be announced March 10. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Another action that Fedeli took, but does not want to talk about, was kicking Brown out of the PC caucus. Fedeli made that announcement on Feb. 16, hours before Brown registered in the leadership race to replace himself. (He withdrew from the race a few days later.)

Brown denies the allegations of sexual misconduct made by two women, stemming from incidents several years ago when he was a federal MP, and claims he was the target of a smear job by his political opponents, inside and outside of his party. Brown quit as leader in the early hours of Jan. 25 after the allegations were made public the night before.

Fedeli did not speak to Brown directly to communicate that he was no longer a PC MPP, he confirmed in the interview.

"Well, I won't do that," Fedeli said when asked to explain why he removed Brown. "The decisions that I made in the past, in the past 40 days, are done. I don't have any regrets about anything I said or did."

Moving on from Brown

Fedeli declined to answer several followup questions about removing Brown from caucus, yet said his party is being open and honest.

"I think we've been pretty open and pretty transparent about everything we've been doing," said Fedeli.

He said party members want to focus on what's ahead, not look back, and that they are "satisfied" with what's transpired over the last month. He pointed to high fundraising results as evidence of that satisfaction. 

Fedeli also didn't want to comment on the police investigation underway in Hamilton where allegations of fraud and corruption were made about a nomination meeting in a riding there. 
Vic Fedeli's signature yellow ties hang on a rack in his office at Queen's Park. (Julie-Anne Lamoureux/Radio-Canada)

"It's an active investigation, and it's probably better that I just don't speak about Hamilton and let the investigation take its course," Fedeli said. There have been complaints about cheating and corruption in multiple ridings and after Brown's departure, the party decided to hold new nomination contests in two of them — one in Scarborough Centre, the other in Ottawa West-Nepean.

The election campaign begins in May and that leaves only a few weeks for the new leader, who won't have a seat in the legislature, to prepare his or her team to beat Wynne. ​

Fedeli said he expects Saturday to be an exciting day and that all of the candidates are working hard to win.

"It's a spirited race," he said. He also predicted the party will have no trouble uniting behind whomever is chosen.

"At the end of the day on Saturday, whomever that leader will be, I am absolutely confident that everybody will rally behind the new leader."