TORONTO - Ontario's Progressive Conservatives find out today who they elected to become the leader of the province's official Opposition party.
Turnout figures have not been disclosed, but more than 76,000 members were eligible to vote Sunday and Thursday for either deputy party leader Christine Elliott or Barrie MP Patrick Brown.
The 60-year-old Elliott, who placed third when she lost the 2009 leadership race to Tim Hudak, says Progressive Conservative has become a "toxic brand," especially among women and young people. The widowed mother of triplet sons, now aged 24, says the Tories must change the tone and direction of the party if they want to win the 2018 election.
The 36-year-old Brown says he wasn't involved in any of the PC's past "policy disasters" such as last year's pledge to cut 100,000 public sector jobs, and is better positioned than Elliott to bring a fresh start to the party. The three-term Conservative backbencher says the party lost four elections because of policies dictated by PC headquarters instead of soliciting ideas from its grassroots members.
Brown sold 41,000 memberships in the party, compared with about 34,000 by Elliott, but her campaign insists its support is widespread across Ontario while Brown's is concentrated in fewer ridings.
With each riding getting 100 points for the new leader, where memberships were sold was just as important as how many, but of course what truly mattered was getting those new members out to vote.
Elliott insists she represents the "progressive" side of the PC party, and says she fears social conservatives would take over the party under Brown's leadership, while Brown says Elliott would bring "more of the same old, same old," ideas.
There won't be a tribute to Hudak at Saturday's convention after the former leader requested the party dedicate the money that would have gone into his presentation to a charitable cause, the Speech and Stuttering Institute.
There were originally five contestants, but Ottawa-area MPP Lisa MacLeod and North Bay MPP Vic Fedeli both pulled out and threw their support behind Elliott, while London-area MPP Monte McNaughton endorsed Brown after he withdrew.
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