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"And I look forward to offering my honest congratulations to our new Leader".

She dismissed the idea the Liberals wanted Ford to win, concluding Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne would have an easier time in the provincial election.

Stressing the importance of a unified party, both former Harper cabinet minister Jason Kenney and interim leader of the Ontario PC Party Vic Fedeli urged members to put squabbles about the leadership vote and the instability caused by Patrick Brown's sudden exit aside so they can beat Kathleen Wynne in June.

Multiple reports indicated that the results were extremely close, between former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford and former MPP Christine Elliott.

"Tonight is a clear sign that there is a lot of work ahead of us..."

"I am ruling out a court challenge I believe that the process that the party has set up is fair", she said.

"We've absolutely seen this movie before, whether it was Doug Ford or whether it was Christine Elliott or Tanya Granic Allen or Caroline Mulroney, they all were supporting a platform that would have taken billions of dollars out of public sector workers".

Elliott responded that an independent panel selected her for the job and the suggestion that it was a patronage appointment from Wynne was ridiculous.

Romano said Ford had a strong following and believes he will be an effective leader. It noted that there had been an issue with the allocation of certain electoral votes but the matter was reviewed and resolved.

Doug Ford announces his candidacy for the Ontario PC Leadership in Toronto on Feb 3rd, 2018.

Former MPP Frank Klees, the runner-up to Tim Hudak in the 2009 leadership contest, fumed on Saturday that "this is not a good night" for the party.

"I will stand up for these members and plan to investigate the extent of this discrepancy", she said in a statement issued hours after Ford's victory was declared.

But in spite of Elliott's concession, uniting the party and making it appeal to a range of voters may prove a daunting task for Ford given his brash, often confrontational approach, which he displayed in his brief career in municipal politics and again in his leadership campaign, said Myer Siemiatycki, a political science professor at Toronto's Ryerson University.

The survey, which was conducted between March 1 to 8 and polled 18,308 members of the Ontario PC Party, found that when calculating for points per riding, Elliott would get 35.2 per cent on the first ballot, and Ford would garner 34.9 per cent.

"At the end of the day, it's all about the giving the right to vote to people who are denied the right to vote", Nunziata said. "That just was very disrespectful".

The race was prompted by former leader Patrick Brown's resignation on January 25 after two women accused him of sexual misconduct.

Elliott had been perceived as the front-runner over Ford, the 53-year-old married father of four daughters who has spent most of his career running the family business Deco Labels.

Ford in a distinct populist campaign had reportedly been telling reporters that he made a decision to run for "the people".