TORONTO — Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown insists the election of a 19-year-old student as the party's candidate for an upcoming byelection was not revenge from social conservatives for his flip-flop on Ontario's sex education curriculum.
Sam Oosterhoff defeated PC Party president and former MP Rick Dykstra and regional councillor Tony Quirk Saturday for the Tory nomination in Niagara-West Glanbrook, which was vacated when former leader Tim Hudak resigned last month.
Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown speaks to media in Toronto on Sept. 12, 2016. (Photo: Peter Power/CP)
Brown said Oosterhoff's nomination for the Nov. 17 byelection was "absolutely not" an anti-establishment vote, or payback from party supporters who were angered by his change of position on the sex ed update passed by the Liberal government.
"We're seeing more candidates run for nominations than we've ever seen in our history, and in big nominations anything can happen," he said Tuesday. "Sam hustled and worked hard and impressed everyone."
The updated sex ed curriculum caused Brown grief in a Scarborough byelection last month after a letter was sent to voters on party letter head, and with his signature, saying that a PC government would scrap the changes.
Anti-abortion protesters at nomination meeting
Brown later disavowed the letter and said it should not have been sent out, and the Tories took the Scarborough-Rouge River seat from the Liberals.
Oosterhoff has not made himself available for media interviews since winning the Tory nomination last Saturday — he was out campaigning Tuesday with Monte McNaughton, the most vocal opponent of the sex ed curriculum in the PC caucus.
But Brown said Oosterhoff is onside with the leader's position to support the updated curriculum.
Sam Oosterhoff is shown in a Facebook photo.
"Sam has told me unequivocally that he is enthusiastic about the direction that I'm taking the party," he said.
Brown insisted anti-abortion protesters who were outside the PC nomination meeting campaigning against Dykstra were not there on Oosterhoff's behalf.
"Actually Sam disavowed them and said they were inappropriate and had no association with his campaign," he said.
In his victory speech, posted on his Facebook page, Oosterhoff promised to be "a strong conservative voice" at the Ontario legislature.
Defeated MPs aiming to run
Brown also said he was encouraged to see high profile Conservatives like former finance minister Joe Oliver and former MPs Bob Dechert and Paul Calandra line up to become candidates for the provincial party, especially in seat-rich Toronto where the Liberals have dominated since 2003.
"I think it speaks to the magnetism there is right now in the PC party," he said. "There were times when no one wanted to run for the PC party in the city of Toronto and right now we have multiple candidates in every riding."
Everyone who wants to be a Tory candidate must win that right in "an open, fair nomination meeting," added Brown.
"As we've seen, no one gets a free ride," he said. "And I can tell you all of those nominations are hotly contested."