Ford rallies Tory faithful to celebrate electoral victory as incendiary book by former PC leader Patrick Brown appears

Ford rallies Tory faithful to celebrate electoral victory as incendiary book by former PC leader Patrick Brown appears

Progressive Conservatives gather for their annual convention this weekend basking in the glow of an election triumph that ended 15 years of Liberal rule.

Doug Ford’s massive majority win over Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals last June energized Tories, although the spectre of former PC leader Patrick Brown looms large thanks to his scorching new book, which has riled the premier.

Published Friday, Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown is an incendiary look at the events surrounding the former Tory chief’s stunning resignation in January.

Brown, elected mayor of Brampton last month, was forced out as PC leader after CTV News broadcast allegations of a sex scandal involving two women.

He is now suing CTV, which stands by its reporting, for $8 million.

His 312-page tome alleges that last year a female Tory staffer “accused (now Finance Minister Vic) Fedeli of inappropriate behaviour.”

Fedeli has denied any wrongdoing and retained legal counsel.

But that sensational claim, timed to be made public as the treasurer was to deliver Thursday’s fall economic statement, hit Ford’s government like a bomb blast.

On Friday night, the premier called the finance minister “one of the most honourable men I have ever worked with” as he rallied supporters at the same Toronto Congress Centre where Brown had convened the faithful in November 2017.

“You are the lifeblood of our party. My friends, tonight is your night, because this victory belongs to you,” said Ford.

“Working hard, working together, we made history. We overcame the impossible. We overcame the critics, the naysayers. We overcame 15 years of Liberal scandals, mismanagement and waste,” he said.

“We stuck together as a party and as a team.”

Ford’s unity call comes as his five-month-old government is coping with two sex scandals, including one that cost economic development minister Jim Wilson his job, and staff turmoil in the premier’s office.

Wilson, a 28-year MPP and the most experienced member of Ford’s cabinet, was asked to resign after an allegation of sexual misconduct with a male staffer. He is now in rehab for alcohol.

The premier’s executive director of issues management, Andrew Kimber, was ousted over sexually inappropriate texts to five female Tory staffers. The texts include photos of him sporting only a thong.

An independent investigator will probe the scandals involving Kimber and Wilson.

The Tories also parted ways with their executive director of the party’s caucus bureau, John Sinclair, who has hired counsel.

“The insinuation that has been in the media about John, that he was in some way deficient in his handling of the recent dismissal of Andrew Kimber, executive director of issues management and legislative affairs from the office of the premier of Ontario, is categorically false,” lawyer Scott Hutchison of Henein Hutchison said earlier this week.

All of this comes against the backdrop of a government coping with a $14.5-billion deficit and a new Campaign Research poll that found the Tories, who won the election with 40.5 per cent of the vote, have dropped to 34 per cent support.

This compares to 32 per cent for the Liberals under interim leader John Fraser, 25 per cent for Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats, and 7 per cent for Mike Schreiner’s Green.

In June, the Liberals, then led by former premier Kathleen Wynne, took 19.6 per cent of the vote, while the NDP received 33.6 per cent and the Greens had 4.6 per cent.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Source link