CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Good evening and thank you Jeremy.
There are so many distinguished guests here. Thank you for supporting Jeremy and the PC Party.
I’d like to welcome my caucus colleague Lisa MacLeod.
Lisa has done excellent work as our Finance Critic and in her trademark style, crashed the Finance Minister’s speech today to hold him to account.
In particular, I want to thank Marjory Lebreton, who has acted as a conscience for our Party over the last year.
And there are few people I can think of who command greater respect in our Party than Marjory. That is why your message was so clearly heard. We are grateful for your honest advice.
In four days, our Party will select a new Leader and Ontario’s next Premier.
That also means that tonight marks my final public event as Leader of the PC Party.
And friends, I can honestly that there is no way more fitting to close my leadership than to see Jeremy Roberts take his rightful place on our roster of candidates.
When I decided to not seek the permanent leadership, I made a commitment to you, our party membership, to work tirelessly to ensure that our Party would be in the best possible shape for the incoming leader.
That meant acknowledging the problems in our Party.
Some have said that they would have preferred that we swept these problems under the rug.
But just as in life, if you ignore your problems, they will only get worse. Leaders can either pass the buck or deal with the problem head on.
Today, I will give you an honest assessment of where we stand.
And my friends, the state of our party is strong.
Excessive spending that occurred in the past has been reined in.
We have ended a needless and expensive lawsuit again a long-time party member. Our donors give their money for election campaigns, not lawsuits.
Our IT systems have been undergone important and much needed updates that will serve us well during the election.
Some said that our donors would be repelled by learning of this news. In fact, the opposite has occurred.
I am pleased to tell you that our fundraising totals are at record highs, and rising every day. This is unprecedented for a political party in the midst of a leadership. In fact, two weeks ago, we had the third best fundraising night in our Party’s history.
Our donors, the lifeblood of any political party, have responded to our reforms by opening their chequebooks.
Meanwhile, volunteers have increased 21 fold. Every activist metric for our party is stronger today than it was six weeks ago. And public opinion indicates that the Progressives Conservatives remain Ontario’s choice to form the next government.
Indeed, our new Leader will inherit a Party that is ready to fight and win the next election.
While there will always be more work to be done, I can confidently give our party a clean bill of health.
But there is one other problem I have not yet addressed…last year’s nomination here in Ottawa West – Nepean.
I have always believed that it is never too late to do the right thing. And indeed the only way to heal divisions in our Party is by righting the wrongs of the past.
And in re-opening this nomination, our Party has done the right thing.
Throughout this whole ordeal, I have been struck by the poise of Jeremy. What I have seen are the traits of someone with true character and unlimited potential.
This community will be well served with you as their representative in Queen’s Park.
In particular, I would like to highlight Jeremy’s advocacy on behalf of people with autism. I know your brother Dillon is incredibly proud of these efforts.
One of the worst legacies of Kathleen Wynne is her record of cutting services for people with autism. So Jeremy, I ask you to take this fight to Queen’s Park in June.
Your work as an advisor to former Finance Ministers’ Jim Flaherty and Joe Oliver will also be sorely needed as we undo 15 years of debt and wasteful spending on Liberal insiders.
Perhaps most importantly, Jeremy will be a strong representative to this community. And I can think of know better public service for the City of Ottawa than finally sending Bob Chiarelli into retirement.
On Tuesday, in my final speech to the PC Caucus as leader, I said that our Party is turning a new page. We are bigger than any one individual.
And I will close by asking one thing to all of you in this room.
This weekend, whichever leadership candidates emerges victorious, let us stand united by our new leader.
Let us offer them our time, our energy and our ideas.
Likewise, let us all stand united by Jeremy and send him to Queen’s Park.
We can and we must win this election.
Not just for the Party.
But for Ontario. Thank you.