TORONTO — Progressive Conservatives are meeting for their first convention since the party swept to power in Ontario’s spring election, but the celebration comes at a time when the new government is weathering a series of political storms.
Party members from across the province have gathered at the Toronto Congress Centre to debate policy, celebrate the June election win and select a new president and executive members.
Premier Doug Ford opened the event Friday night with a speech outlining his new government’s accomplishments since being sworn in and lauding his team.
“The Ontario PC Party is stronger than ever,” Ford said, as the party’s caucus joined him on stage. “My friends, a new day has dawned in Ontario.”
The convention comes at the end of a week which also saw the Ford government deliver its first fiscal update, while also grappling with the release of former party leader Patrick Brown’s tell-all book.
In the biography, the Brown portrays himself as a victim of a conspiracy led by senior party officials opposed to what he calls a moderate brand of conservatism.
The book also makes allegations against several key members of Ford’s government, including Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, whom Brown says faced allegations of sexual misconduct when he was party leader.
Ford defended his finance minister Wednesday, saying the allegations against the veteran legislator detailed in the book are nothing but a “disgusting smear campaign.”
Fedeli, meanwhile, called the allegations “categorically false and without any merit,” and said he was prepared to take legal action.
In 2017, the Tories used their annual party policy convention to launch their election platform called The People’s Guarantee. That document, packaged as a glossy magazine, featured a large picture of Brown on the cover. It was quietly scrapped just over two months later after Brown’s abrupt resignation as leader amid sexual misconduct allegations he continues to deny.
It’s been a tumultuous month for the new government. In early November, Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson was forced to resign from cabinet and the party caucus after an allegation of sexual misconduct was levelled against him. That same day a key adviser to Ford, Andrew Kimber, also resigned after multiple staff members came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
The convention continues Saturday with a keynote speech from federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer during morning sessions and a fireside chat with Ford during the evening.