Christine Elliott, candidate for leadership of the Ontario PC Party, addresses an audience at Colasanti's in Kingsville on March 1, 2018. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

Elliott Concedes After PC Party Finds No Balloting Issues

A candidate for the Ontario PC leadership has finally conceded after challenging the balloting process.

Former MPP Christine Elliott, who finished a close second to Doug Ford in balloting for the party leadership, conceded the loss early Sunday evening and vowed to support Ford in the party’s effort to unseat the majority Liberals in the June provincial election.

Elliott lost to Ford by 153 electoral votes on the third and final ballot Saturday night, a result ultimately verified after a chaotic leadership convention at the Hilton Convention Centre in Markham.

Elliott, who has been unsuccessful for a third time in a bid to become Ontario’s Tory leader, had initially refused to concede the leadership race, citing what she thought were voting irregularities.

Leadership election committee chairman Hartley Lefton said there was never an issue with the counting of ballots, though the announcement of Doug Ford as the leader of the party was delayed by more than seven hours.

Lefton said a secure process was used to verify memberships, as well as another safe method to allow 64,053 members to vote individually anywhere in the province.

“This process represents a new record of voting turnout in Ontario PC Party history, ahead of the previous high of 44,188 in 2002,” said Lefton. “This voting system is used successfully in hundreds of elections across Canada and the United States each year, and we have the utmost confidence in its security and integrity.”

Lefton admitted there were concerns over the votes at Saturday’s convention with a challenge to over a thousand ballots, with the issue being the proper distribution of electoral votes.

“Following the tabulation of ballots, a challenge regarding the allocation of electoral votes was heard by the Appeals Board and the issue was extensively investigated by the Chief Electoral Officer and the election team,” he said. “The conclusion of the CEO was that the identified issue would not statistically lead to a change in the outcome of the vote and the Chair of the Appeals Board dismissed the challenge.”

Lefton said the party’s auditor, Deloitte, verified the mathematical calculations used to reach this conclusion.

“Political party leadership elections are not simple. There are numerous rules and complexities involved that are in place to bring integrity to the process for both party members and candidates. Our now concluded election was no different, in that as an issue arose and there was a process that was followed,” said Lefton. “We all hoped for a speedy resolution to this issue on March 10, and unfortunately that was not the case.”

Initial reports said that Elliott’s campaign had demanded a manual recount, but Lefton said there was no recount at any time during the process.

—with files from Mark Brown—