Ontario’s embattled Progressive Conservatives are set to reveal on Saturday who will lead the party into the spring election after weeks of internal chaos triggered by the resignation of former leader Patrick Brown.
Former MPP and deputy PC leader Christine Elliott, one-term Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, Toronto lawyer and businesswoman Caroline Mulroney, and parental rights crusader Tanya Granic Allen are on the ballot.
CBC News will livestream the afternoon’s events and CBC News Network will have special coverage of the leadership convention beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
Recent polling suggests that the contest is a toss-up between Elliott and Ford.
Elliott has presented herself as a moderate, experienced Tory and prudent choice to take on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne in June. She unsuccessfully ran for the party’s top spot in 2009 and 2015.
For his part, Ford has struck a populist tone and cultivated an image of a businessman who can cut government waste.
Mulroney, who is running as a PC candidate in the riding of York-Simcoe, had — as of Thursday night — managed to raise more money than any of her peers. She has painted herself as a fresh face who can change the culture of the party.
Meanwhile, Granic Allen has emphasized her ties to the party’s grassroots and stuck to a staunchly socially conservative agenda.
While all four have pledged to scrap a proposed carbon tax that formed a key pillar of the party’s election platform under Brown, the 44-day race has been relatively light on policy debate and heavy on questions about who would be best able to right a party thrown into chaos by Brown’s departure.
The Simcoe North MPP resigned in January following allegations of sexual misconduct from two women. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing and served CTV News, which first published the allegations, with a notice of libel.
His departure led to a power struggle in the PC’s top ranks and illuminated deep divisions within caucus. It also raised serious questions about the validity of the PC membership list which, according to Brown, ballooned under his tenure from some 12,000 to more than 200,000.
However, in a memo to staff last month, interim leader Vic Fedeli said that Brown had inflated the numbers by about 70,000. The actual figure remains in dispute.
On Friday, PC party officials said that 64,053 ballots had been cast by the end of the voting period. More than 71,400 were registered to vote, according to officials.
Problems with the registration process drew significant backlash from three of the four candidates. Ford said the leadership vote was “not transparent” and alleged that only select members were receiving their registration code in time to cast a ballot. He, Mulroney and Granic Allen all called for the party to extend the voting period.
The matter was settled on Friday afternoon by a Ontario Superior Court judge, who dismissed an injunction application from a disenfranchised party member to prolong the vote.