Doug Ford elected Ontario Progressive Conservative leader, party announces, Christine Elliott alleges 'serious irregularities'

Doug Ford elected Ontario Progressive Conservative leader, party announces, Christine Elliott alleges ‘serious irregularities’

(Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the results of the vote provided by the party and a statement from Christine Elliott.)

The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario announced late Saturday night that Doug Ford had been elected leader — but shortly after midnight, Christine Elliott alleged there were "serious irregularities" with the vote.

Party brass — President Jag Badwal, Caucus Chair Lisa Thompson and members of the party committee that had organized the election — announced Ford had won at about 10:15 p.m..

According to the figures they provided, Ford, a former Toronto city councillor, edged out a win over Elliott, a former MPP, on the third ballot. Social conservative activist Tanya Granic Allen was eliminated on the first ballot, placing last, and political newcomer Caroline Mulroney was eliminated on the second ballot, placing third.

The graph above shows what percentage of the electoral points each candidate won on each ballot. 

"Tonight, we took the first step in defeating Kathleen Wynne," said Ford in his victory speech, which took place in a small room in front of the media, long past the evening news, instead of in the convention hall filled with Tories.

Ford spoke to problems with the vote, saying they are "a clear sign" that the party has a lot of work ahead of it.

"We have a lot to do before the next campaign. We have a lot to do in a very short amount of time," he said. "But I promise you this: I will get our party back on track. We will put a platform forward that speaks to every Ontarian. Together, we will return our province to where it belongs."

Asked by the press if Elliott had conceded, Ford replied he had not spoken to her.

Less than two hours later, Elliott issued a statement to the press saying she had won both the popular vote and the majority of ridings. That is possible because the party uses an electoral college-style system. Each riding where 100 or more votes were cast was assigned 100 electoral points, with each candidate earning points based on their percentage of the vote. In ridings where less than 100 votes were cast, each voted equaled one point.

"This evening our campaign was made aware of serious irregularities with respect to this leadership race," she said.

"Of the approximately 12,000 points that are included in the final calculations, there are fewer than 150 points difference between the two candidates," she said.

"Most importantly, thousands of members have been assigned to incorrect ridings; for example, Mount Hope, inside of Hamilton, had its members assigned to Chatham-Kent, several hundred kilometres away. Our scrutineers identified entire towns voting in the wrong riding. In a race this close, largely determined by geography, someone needs to stand up for these members.

"I will stand up for these members and plan to investigate the extent of this discrepancy."

The results were supposed to have been announced at 3:15 p.m. Thompson and Badwal were supposed to have read out the results of each round of voting, with corresponding figures and bar charts showing on three massive screens in the main hall of the convention centre.

It was supposed to have gone quickly. There was to be no delay because the votes were to have been tabulated in advance.

Votes had been cast electronically. Each voter's riding and their ranking of their choices for leader were recorded in an electronic PDF document, that was to be printed and then tabulated by machines.

The announcement was supposed to have gone like this: Badwal and Thompson would have read the first ballot results, then about 10 seconds of applause. If necessary, the second ballot results would immediately follow, cueing more applause. If it was really close, only one last round of results and applause was all that was supposed to be necessary.

It was over in a matter of minutes, in the scenarios the party practiced.

But a little before 3:15 p.m. the news that there was a problem, and lawyers were involved, began to leak out.

There was supposed to have been a 45-minute break before the end of the speeches — by Interim Ontario PC Leader Vic Fedeli and United Conservative Party of Albert Leader Jason Kenney — but as that stretched past the hour mark, the media gathered in the hallway that separated the rooms for the counting, and for the the candidates and their teams.

Tories kept on mingling next to a cash bar.

One MPP made a quip about lawyers billing by the hour.

Reporters tweeted out leaks of information they could glean, with CBC reporting that Ford had been narrowly elected, with Elliott's campaign demanding a manual recount of at least some of the ballots.

Broadcasters filled time on the air with marathon interviews and CBC erroneously reported that Elliott had left the building — something her campaign quickly denied as "#fakenews."

One hour after the results were supposed to be announced, Granic Allen came to visit the press gathered in the hallway — offering cups of water, but no comments.

"We appreciate your patience and we're waiting as anxiously as you are," said Ford spokeswoman Lyndsey Vanstone.

More than three hours after the winner was supposed to be announced, Thompson emerged — but she didn't announce the results.

"Hello everyone! What a day we are having. The PC party in Ontario is alive and well and congratulations, there's some much energy in this room throughout the entire day. Well done members!"

Thompson named all of the candidates and their supporters cheered.

"The thread that binds us all together and that all four candidates have heard loud and clear is that Ontario is done with Kathleen Wynne, so thank you candidates!"

She lauded the crowd.

"We ask for you to stay with us for 30 minutes," she said. "You have all been following social media, you know what's going on. So let's keep this party going and in 30 minutes we're going to hear from Hartley Lefton."

"There is a review underway of an allocation of a certain list of electors that needs be resolved, because it may have an impact on electoral votes," Lefton, chair of the Leadership Election Organizing Committee, told the crowd shortly after 7 p.m., about four hours after the party's new leader was supposed to have been announced.

Lefton was simultaneously cheered and booed by party members as he said that the party would resolve the problem "in the short term, and by that I mean as soon as practicably possible."

He asked members to leave the convention hall.

"Unfortunately, we do not have access to the hall any longer," he said.

After Lefton told everyone to go home, former PC MPP Frank Klees, who is backing Ford, criticized the LEOC for what he felt was an "embarrassing" process.

"We're leaving here with questions about the people behind the process. We're leaving here with questions about the people on that committee who structured this process, in which we have no confidence," he said, adding that he didn't have faith in the party management but would support whoever wins the leadership.

But he cast additional doubt on the integrity of the process.

"Every one of us who is a member of this party is left with questions as to whether there has been a rigging, whether somebody who didn't want the results to be announced tonight had a preference for a candidate, and ordered a recount or a double recount or a triple recount," he said without providing any evidence.

The hastily organized online vote was plagued by organizational problems that ultimately prevented some members from casting their ballot. Ford had alleged said the vote was "corrupted" because the party favoured Elliott, who was the only leadership candidate was not calling for voting to be extended.

On the eve of the leadership race announcement, a Superior Court Judge had dismissed a request for an injunction that would have extended the voting in the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership election by one week, and would have forced the party to cancel its plans for the Saturday’s leadership announcement. At the hearing, Lefton told the court the party had spent $250,000 on the leadership announcement event.

By Jessica Smith Cross, with files from David Hains


QP Briefing Staff

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