In the early hours Thursday morning, following discussions with members of his caucus regarding allegations of sexual misconduct, Patrick Brown stepped down as Leader of the Ontario PC Party. Polling had consistently shown his party as the odds-on favourite to win the provincial election in June.
What Happens Next
Members of the PC caucus will meet on Friday to select an Interim Leader. According to the PC constitution, in addition to being the parliamentary leader of the caucus, this person is also to be recognized as Leader by the Party.
The Interim Leader is in place until the completion of a leadership election, which the PC constitution mandates must be called by the Party Executive within 18 months of the resignation of a Leader and selection of an Interim Leader.
With the election only four months away, the Executive will move quickly to determine when a leadership election might be held and potentially setting up the necessary administration for that process, such as election rules (including membership cut-off dates and entry fees) and forming a Leadership Election Organizing Committee.
The only time restraint placed on a leadership election by the PC constitution is a requirement that it must conclude no later than six months after the date on which the Executive called the election, permitting the Party to have a shorter race before the June election and avoiding any controversy over running in an election with an Interim Leader.
There are no provisions preventing the individual chosen by caucus as Interim Leader from running in the leadership election.
What This Means for You
The Ontario PCs have been on top of nearly every public opinion poll in the last year. The Brown revelations come just after David Livingston, one time Chief of Staff to former Premier Dalton McGuinty, was found guilty by an Ontario court for his involvement in destroying information about the 2014 election-related decision to cancel planned power plants in key swing ridings. The PCs had hoped to use that verdict to secure their government-in-waiting status. Now, all bets on the election result are off the table.
For the PCs to recover in time for the election, they will need to move quickly to choose a new leader and re-brand the Party’s election platform. Expect that the current PC Party platform, called the People’s Guarantee and prominently featuring Patrick Brown’s face on the cover, will undergo some major changes. Every Party Leader puts their own influence on the policies and direction of their party. The person who is ultimately chosen to the lead the PCs in the next election will have their own priorities that will influence the political debate in Ontario going forward.