Any decisions about Patrick Brown's future as an Ontario Progressive Conservative and whether he will carry the party's flag in a local contest will be made by the next permanent leader, the party's interim chief has confirmed.
In a news conference on Tuesday, the morning after Mr. Brown dropped his leadership bid, interim Leader Vic Fedeli said the party was ready to "move on" from the month-long debacle after the resignation of its former leader in late January. Mr. Brown's short-lived campaign to reclaim the leadership of Ontario's Official Opposition ended on Monday afternoon after he said he had become a distraction for the party.
"The last 10 days have been unprecedented in Ontario's politics. No one will question that it has been a difficult time for our party, but we are now ready to turn the page," Mr. Fedeli told reporters on Tuesday at Queen's Park. "Our party is bigger than one person."
While Mr. Brown had previously been ready to run for the party in the riding of Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, the automatic nomination given to him as a sitting party MPP was revoked after he was expelled from the party's caucus earlier this month by Mr. Fedeli. The interim Leader said he stands by his decision to throw Mr. Brown out of caucus. "There is nothing that is going to change that decision," he said.
In the four-page letter where he announced his withdrawal from the leadership race, Mr. Brown said he would remain "a committed volunteer, donor and activist. I believe the best thing I can do for the PC Party at this time is ensure that we win" in the Barrie-area riding, he wrote. Mr. Brown could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
When asked who would decide on whether Mr. Brown can run for the party, Mr. Fedeli said that decision would rest with the party's next leader. "I will support the new leader after March 10 in whatever that new leader decides," he said.
According to Garry Perkins, the president of the PC association in the Barrie-area riding, the choice to call a nomination meeting will be made by the party, who "won't make any decisions on this till after the leadership."
While Ontario's Tories have nominated 97 candidates so far, according to the party, nomination votes are continuing. Two candidates have been nominated during Mr. Fedeli's time as interim Leader and four more races are scheduled before his successor is named. Ontario will have 124 ridings in the next election.
Mr. Brown's departure from the leadership race leaves four candidates: former Toronto councillor Doug Ford; political newcomer Caroline Mulroney; former Tory MPP Christine Elliott; and Tanya Granic Allen, an activist who opposes Ontario's new sex-education curriculum.
The candidates will face off during the second debate of the leadership campaign on Wednesday in Ottawa. The new leader will be announced on March 10, but voting starts on Friday.
Mr. Fedeli avoided questions on Tuesday about a promise he made soon after taking over as interim Leader to rid the party of "rot." In the wake of Mr. Brown's resignation, Mr. Fedeli had reported that the party faced allegations that the former leader's time in office saw manipulated nomination contests, the abuse of funds and inflated membership rolls.
However, on Tuesday he would only say that the party had been left stronger by the past month and was ready to beat Premier Kathleen Wynne in a general election scheduled for June 7.
Another important question facing the party's next leader is whether the electoral platform written by Mr. Brown, known as the People's Guarantee, will guide the Tories into the election. A main plank of the centrist platform is the introduction of a carbon tax, which would fund an income tax cut. All of the candidates remaining in the race have said they would not support the carbon tax.
Mr. Brown resigned as leader last month after he faced allegations from two women of sexual misconduct.