Ontario PC party interim leader Vic Fedeli speaks after a caucus meeting at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Friday. Fedeli has been named interim leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives after Patrick Brown’s resignation in the face of sexual misconduct allegations. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ontario Tories will select permanent leader by spring election

TORONTO — Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives will hold a leadership race to replace Patrick Brown, who resigned this week in the face of sexual misconduct allegations.

The party’s executive voted Friday to hold the race and select a new leader sometime before March, ahead of the province’s spring election.

Party president Rick Dykstra says the executive has not yet established a firm timeline for the race.

“This will be a very aggressive time-frame,” he said. “This is going to have to be a very quick process.”

Dykstra said a committee will be set up to oversee the leadership race and insisted the party can remain united through what could be a divisive campaign.

“At the end of the day this party always stands united, always stands focused and I can assure you that when this is finished before the end of March, we will be ready to take on government in June of 2018,” he said.

The executive’s decision runs contrary to the wishes of the party’s caucus, which named Tory finance critic Vic Fedeli as interim leader earlier in the day and wanted him to serve as permanent party leader through the upcoming election.

Fedeli can run in the leadership race and declared his intention to be a candidate, noting he respected the executive’s decision.

Grassroots party members and a number of candidates had called on the executive to hold a leadership election to give them a voice in who would helm the PCs.

Brown announced his resignation as party leader early Thursday, hours after emphatically denying what he called “troubling allegations” about his conduct and his character. The allegations, which have not been independently verified by The Canadian Press, were made by two women who spoke to CTV News.

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