POLITICS

Ontario Tories Will Soon Pick Their New Leader

04/06/2015 09:49 EDT | Updated 06/06/2015 05:59 EDT

The people hoping to take the reins of the Ontario PC party have little time left to sway voters to their side.

Party members will begin casting their preferential leadership ballots in the first week of next month, with the new leader being announced on May 9.

The final leadership debate takes place next week between the remaining candidates — Patrick Brown, Christine Elliott and Monte McNaughton.

Brown is a backbencher Tory MP who does not hold a seat in the provincial legislature, while Elliott and McNaughton have been part of the PC caucus at Queen's Park for years.

Brown has said that he has signed up more than 40,000 members ahead of the leadership convention deadline, putting him ahead of Elliott, who sold 34,000 memberships, with a McNaughton distant third. The party hasn't confirmed any sales numbers.

Last week, Brown picked up endorsements from two senior Tories — Paul Godfrey, a well-known businessman and PC powerbroker, and Derek Burney, who served as chief of staff to former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

"I believe that this young man can rejuvenate the party to give it a shot in the arm and to open all doors to all comers, so that the Progressive Conservatives have a shot at winning the next election," Godfrey said.

Similarly, Burney cast Brown as "a winner" who can lead the Tories back to governance.

Brown said his campaign feels confident as the leadership campaign hits its final stretch.

"We fully intend to win this leadership on May 9 and feel very good that we are right on track to do that," he said.

The current leadership renewal process was triggered by the resignation of Tim Hudak, the party's leader for fives years, who stepped down after the Tories were defeated in the last election.

The Tories have lost the last four provincial elections, all to the Liberals. Three of those elections saw Liberal majorities.

Jim Wilson has been serving as the party's interim leader since Hudak vacated the leadership.

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