TORONTO – Little-known Tory backbencher Patrick Brown is the new leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party after he defeated deputy PC leader Christine Elliott.
The 36-year-old Brown opened up an early lead over Elliott as the results were announced riding by riding, and his margin kept growing until he had enough electoral votes to win.
Brown, who is single, was elected to city council in Barrie, Ont., while still going to university and won a seat in the House of Commons in 2006 as a Conservative MP, but was never appointed to cabinet.
Brown sold more than 41,000 new PC memberships as he campaigned across the province saying he was the fresh “reset” that could return the once-mighty party to power.
He doesn’t have a seat in the Ontario legislature, was supported by only five members of the PC caucus, and had virtually no provincial profile until he launched his leadership bid by attacking the Tory establishment he blames for four consecutive election losses.
Elliott had warned social conservatives would take over the PC party if Brown won, but he insists he won’t re-open the abortion debate, even though he won’t say if he’s pro-life or pro-choice.
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 can bring a fresh start to the party.
Former PC leader Tim Hudak resigned shortly after the party lost its second election to the Liberals last June.
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