Vic Fedeli says he has no regrets as interim PC leader
Next PC leader inheriting a strong party despite turmoil, according to Fedeli
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.
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.
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.
"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."