TORONTO — A new candidate jumped into the race to lead the Ontario Progressive Conservatives on Monday as the party grappled with the latest accusations of sexual misconduct to hit its ranks.
Doug Ford, a former Toronto city councillor and brother to the city’s late former mayor Rob Ford, said he was throwing his hat in the ring to save the party from what he called political “elites.”
“The elites of this party, the ones who shut out the grassroots, do not want me in this race,” Doug Ford said in a news conference at his family’s home in west Toronto.
“I’m here to give a voice … to the hardworking taxpayers of this province, people who have been ignored for far too long,” he said. “This is truly a critical moment for our party, for our people and for the future of our province.”
The party’s executive announced Friday there would be a leadership race to select a permanent replacement for former leader Patrick Brown, who stepped down last week in the face of sexual misconduct allegations, which he vehemently denies.
Caucus members had recommended that interim leader Vic Fedeli carry the party through the upcoming provincial election.
The party found itself having to fill another vacancy Monday after its president Rick Dykstra resigned abruptly amid a report from Maclean’s magazine on allegations of sexual assault. The allegations have not been verified by The Canadian Press and Dykstra has not responded to requests for comment.
Fedeli said he was shocked and disgusted by the reported allegations against Dykstra, adding he is taking them very seriously. He said he will take steps to ensure the workplace is safe for party members and staffers in the wake of the allegations.
Dykstra announced his resignation on Twitter Sunday night, hours before Maclean’s reported that he was accused of sexually assaulting a young Conservative staffer in 2014, when he was an MP.
Dykstra did not reference the allegations in his Twitter post but the magazine said Dykstra told them he “will be responding.”
Maclean’s said the staffer reported the incident to Ottawa police in 2014, alleging Dykstra sexually assaulted her after a party. The magazine reported that senior Conservative campaign operatives were aware of the allegations and decided to allow him to run in the 2015 election anyway.
The woman, who was not named, told the magazine she was in Dykstra’s apartment when he allegedly cornered her in his bedroom and “forced” her to perform oral sex on him. She told the magazine she fled the apartment when Dykstra left the room.
Maclean’s said the woman gave police a statement but ultimately decided not to proceed with the case. Ottawa police said Monday that they could not confirm details of the case as no charges were laid.
Dykstra went on to lose his St. Catharines, Ont., riding, and became president of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives.
The allegations against Dykstra came days after Brown resigned following a CTV News report about accusations of sexual misconduct from two unnamed women. The allegations have not been verified by The Canadian Press.
The Canadian Press