With Ontario provincial elections looming, the Progressive Conservative party is suffering one blow after another. The president of the party, Rick Dykstra, resigned his position on January 28, after being contacted by Maclean’s Magazine regarding alleged sexual assault. Just three days prior, Patrick Brown, a close ally with Dykstra, resigned from his position as party leader after similar allegations were brought forward.
This loss of integral party members could not have come at a worse time for the Conservatives, especially in light of the fact that, according to a poll conducted by Global News in December of last year, 81 per cent of people are looking for a change in provincial leadership. Additionally, they found that the plurality (36 per cent) were looking to the PC party to provide that change.
The allegations against Dykstra concern an incident that occurred in 2014, when Dykstra worked as the MP for St. Catharines under Stephen Harper. At that time, Ottawa police received a complaint from a PC staff member, saying she was assaulted by him after a night of drinking. She claimed that around 1:30 a.m. Dykstra jumped in her cab she was taking home and gave the driver his own address instead. After refusing several times to go upstairs with him, she claims that Dykstra pushed her onto a wall and started kissing her. From there, his actions progressed to undressing and other sexual acts.
According to Maclean’s Magazine’s reports, Harper and a few other top officials knew of the allegations at the time they occurred. Despite this, Dykstra was still allowed to run in the 2015 federal election; Harper posted a statement on Twitter regarding his choice to allow Dykstra to continue running: “When allegations were brought to my attention during 2015 election campaign, I understood that the matter had been investigated by police and closed a year prior. Giving this understanding of the situation, I did not believe that I could not justify removing him as a candidate. However, Dykstra lost his parliament seat in the election, and the following year (2016) he became president of the Progressive Conservative party.”
The allegations against Dykstra have not been proven in court, and he himself has denied them. The woman who brought her complaints to the police ultimately decided to drop any charges. Dykstra resigned from his position just hours before Maclean’s put out a story on his sexual assault allegations. He, too, posted his resignation on Twitter:
“Since March 2016, I have been pleased to serves as president of the PC Party … It has been a wonderful experience to watch the party’s renewal, and over the next couple of months we will see the party coalesce around a new leader. As this process of unfolds, I have made the decision to step aside as president and take a step back for someone else to lead us through the hard work. After two years in this position, I know the party is prepared to take on the hard work necessary to fight this election.”
Interestingly, Brown also resigned mere hours before a public story was released by CTV of alleged sexual propriety.
For now, the party is being led by Vic Fedeli, interim conservative leader, and Jag Badwal, interim president.