Are we down to the wire on Ontario PC leadership yet? (Yes .. and believe it or not Doug Ford has won .. finally)

Mar 9th, 2018 | By Randall White | Category: In Brief

Christine Elliott and friends, back when the Ford nation endorsed her as Ontario PC leader in 2015.

GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. FRI 9 MAR 18. 5:45 PM ET. [UPDATED 7:55 PM ; SAT 10 MAR, 5:20 PM ET ; SUN 11 MAR, 2/3 AM ET/EDT]. It fits with all the strange things which have happened so far in the quite bizarre surprise Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race of 2018 that, less than 24 hours before the result is scheduled to be known, it is still not certain we will know the result as scheduled. (UPDATE MAR 10 : Scroll to bottom for the final result, at last!)

See, eg :  “Judge to make decision on last-ditch hearing to extend PC leadership race … Party plans to announce the winner on Saturday, so injunction would throw that into chaos .”  And : “Lawyer seeking injunction to extend Ontario PC leadership race … application is being heard in a Toronto courthouse Friday.”

Mike Crawley at the CBC, co-author of the first piece above has recently tweeted “Ontario PC leadership race update: Court officials have just told us the judge is still working on his decision, and it’s not likely to come before 6pm.”

Unless the judge does decide to extend the race (for another week, say?)  — something that all current Ontario PC leadership candidates but Christine Elliott have also been urging — it seems  likely enough that the party establishment favourite Christine Elliott will be the winner when the results are announced tomorrow, as originally scheduled by party officials.

On this prospect see three recent tweets by Steve Paikin, and a report yesterday from CBC pollster Éric Grenier :

* “@C_Mulroney still leads in fundraising, but @celliottability is raking it in too: more than $100,000 in the past 24 hours alone, for a total of $746,000 so far, according to her campaign … 5:01 PM — 9 Mar 2018.”

* “take this @MainStResearch poll for what it’s worth: 18,308 @OntarioPCParty members surveyed betw. Mar.1-7.  @celliottability 35.2%, @fordnation 34.9%, @C_Mulroney 17.3%, @@@TGranicAllen 12.5%. if this is right, it certainly suggests an elliott 2nd or 3rd ballot win … 4:49 PM – 9 Mar 2018.”

* “i’m not 100% sure of this, but if @C_Mulroney, @fordnation, & @TGranicAllen are all calling for an extension in the voting and leadership election day, isn’t that a tacit acknowledgement that they think @celliottability is going to win under the current circumstances? … 6:56 PM – 8 Mar 2018.”

Ontario PC leadership debate 2018 : l to r : Tanya Allen, Caroline Mulroney, Christine Elliott, Doug Ford.

* As of 1:29 PM on Mar 08, 2018,  1:29 PM ET Éric Grenier was also suggesting : “Christine Elliott was the only candidate to say the voting process should go ahead as planned, a move that suggests confidence in Saturday’s result. But Tanya Granic Allen, Doug Ford and Caroline Mulroney are not throwing in the towel just yet.”

This space here will be reporting back itself once the court decision is announced — soon enough at 6PM or later.

Meanwhile note that both Warren Kinsella and John Ibbitson have expressed great scepticism about “how often judges like to involve themselves in the internal affairs of political parties.” If this proves right it would seem a pretty fair guess that Christine Elliott will win tomorrow. And then the question will be how mad does this make the other three candidates? And, ultimately, what does this mean for the actual Ontario election on June7? (And remember : you heard it here first, even if it remains unclear!)

UPDATE 7:45 PM/7:55 PM : Mike Crawley has just (well 12 minutes ago) tweeted : “We’re told a written decision is on the way.” And some 10 minutes later Robert Benzie has tweeted : “BREAKING: Judge rejects injunction application that would have extended @OntarioPCParty leadership voting by a week. Convention can go ahead tomorrow.”  So … we will now know for certain who the winner is (and likely enough Ms Elliott?) by this time on Saturday, March 10 — or at least before all voters of all sorts across “this prosy old province of Ontario” in the age of high technology have gone to bed?

UPDATE MAR 10, 5:30 PM : So who actually is the winner?  Despite my own and other suggestions about a likely Christine Elliott victory, some time ago Robert Benzie at the Toronto Star tweeted : “Sources say preliminary count shows @fordnation won on riding points. Within 0.5 percentage points of @celliottability. But count is being challenged so Ford win is not official.”

Then the CBC’s Mike Crawley reported : “BREAKING: A senior official with direct knowledge of the results tells me that Doug Ford won the Ontario PC leadership race in the initial count and that Christine Elliott is demanding a recount.”

And then just several minutes ago Mike Crawley told us : “CONFIRMED: Two party sources with direct knowledge of the result tell me the recount is complete and Doug Ford won on the recount as well. He will be the new Ontario PC leader.”

And now just a few moments ago Mr. Benzie has tweeted again : “BREAKING: Senior Tory confides: “We have a @HillaryClinton-@realDonaldTrump situation. @fordnation has won ‘electoral college’ with more riding points, but @celliottability has 3,000 more voters.” Hearing we may be headed to court.”

I give full credit to Andrew Coyne, who as early as just after 2 PM this afternoon told us : “Somehow the Ontario Tories are going to find one last way to screw this up. I can feel it.”

Of course, stay tuned …

UPDATE MAR 11, 2/3 AM ET/EDT : The plot may or may not have thickened yet again. Rather late in the day on March 10 an official announcement was made that Doug Ford had won. Just after 10 PM, eg, Robert Benzie tweeted : “Doug @fordnation is new @OntarioPCParty leader.”

Just after midnight, however, Mike Crawley at the CBC was explaining that yet another complication had arisen : “BREAKING: Christine Elliott is NOT conceding the Ontario PC leadership to Doug Ford … she claims ‘serious irregularities’ in the race.”

Ten minutes later Martin Regg Cohn at the Toronto Star jumped in with : “Wow. @celliottability refuses to concede to @fordnation. Strongly worded statement vows to probe discrepancies that denied her leadership after winning popular vote and most ridings. Will caucus supporters stand by her or acquiesce to Ford as new boss?”

Just before the switch to Daylight Savings time at 2 AM on March 11 Adam Radwanski at the Globe and Mail opined : “I can understand Christine Elliott’s frustration. But I can’t envision a scenario in which either the party or a court overturns Ford’s win.”

Again I can only admire the Andrew Coyne who advised us more than 12 hours ago now : “Somehow the Ontario Tories are going to find one last way to screw this up. I can feel it.” It would all be so much simpler from here on if Christine Elliott had just won handily, the way the party establishment wanted!

UPDATE MAR 11, 7:30 PM EDT : In the end the Progressive Conservative party in Canada’s most populous province is a proper political party, whose members generally do the right thing in the end, officially at least. See, eg, Mike Crawley’s CBC News report, last updated about an hour ago : “Christine Elliott meets new Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford, gives him her support … Elliott’s campaign choosing not to challenge to Ford’s victory in Ontario PC leadership race.”

Who of course knows where it will all go from here? Stay tuned … the election day that counts on June 7 is now less than three months away.

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