Christine Elliott has conceded defeat to Doug Ford nearly 24 hours after he was declared the winner of a tight leadership contest to helm the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

“The pace of this Ontario PC leadership race has been rapid and there have been a number of unexpected turns along the way,” Elliott said in a statement released at around 8 p.m. “That is why our team took the last twenty-four hours to review the results of an election that was incredibly close.

“After completing my review, I am confident in the results. I extend my congratulations to Doug Ford on a hard-fought campaign.”

Elliott’s statement followed a meeting with Ford that appeared to put to rest any notion that she would continue a challenge to his win after a chaotic leadership convention on Saturday.

Ford, a former city councillor and older brother of late former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, was declared the winner at Saturday’s convention in Markham after a seven-and-a-half hour delay.

Elliott placed a close second, coming in 153 points behind Ford on the final ballot.

In a statement Sunday morning, Elliott said she received the popular vote as well as the majority of the ridings and said there were "serious irregularities" with the voting process that needed to be investigated.

Elliott’s team claimed that thousands of PC members were assigned to incorrect ridings and in one instance, the Hamilton riding of Mount Hope was assigned to a riding located hundreds of kilometres away.

"Our scrutineers identified entire towns voting in the wrong riding. In a race this close, largely determined by geography, someone needs to stand up for these members," Elliott said in her earlier statement. "I will stand up for these members and plan to investigate the extent of this discrepancy."

However Elliott also faced mounting pressure to concede defeat Sunday so that the party could put up a united front with just three months to go before the provincial election.

On Sunday the party’s executive committee passed a unanimous motion to accept the results of the leadership race.

“The executive looks forward to working with our new leader @fordnation to defeat Kathleen Wynne on June 7th,” the party said in a tweet.

Former Premier Mike Harris also called on Elliott to concede.

“They (the party executive) are very definitive that Doug Ford won this fair and square,” Harris said in a phone interview with CP24.  

He added that while both candidates are to be congratulated for their efforts, “this election is over and it is time for Christine to concede.”

In her statement acknowledging Ford’s win, Elliott reiterated that she still plans to seek a seat in the provincial election in June.

“I have been a proud Progressive Conservative for over 25 years and my commitment remains steadfast. As I have been saying every day during this campaign, Ontario needs us. That is why I entered this race,” Elliott said. “Ontario needs a Progressive Conservative government to finally defeat Kathleen Wynne and I look forward to running as a candidate on the team that will form that government on June 7th.”

It’s not yet clear where Elliott will run.

Ford strikes conciliatory tone

Almost immediately after she conceded, Doug Ford responded on Twitter to thank Elliott.

“Thank you Christine! You are a great friend and I look forward to working together to put Ontario on the right track,” Ford said in his tweet.

In a further statement, Ford lauded Elliott – a longtime family friend – as a “dedicated mother, intelligent leader and hard working volunteer” and appeared eager to move past a close leadership campaign that saw him paint her as a flip-flopper.

"Leadership races can be tough on political parties, and for the candidates that compete in them, Ford said in the statement. “For me, there was no tougher part than running against Christine Elliott. I have been fortunate to call her my friend over the last two decades, and with good reason.

He said Elliott “represents exactly what we need in public service” and added that “her commitment to our Party is second to none.”

"While we were opponents for a few short days, today we are standing together, united with one goal: defeating the politically corrupt Wynne Liberals and giving relief to the everyday people Kathleen Wynne has left behind. Our Party needs Christine more than ever and we are fortunate to have her on our team as we get to work to achieve this goal."

Asked about the dispute over the vote count as he greeted people at Toronto’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade earlier Sunday, Ford said he’s focused on the general election.

“I’m worried about Kathleen Wynne, not Christine Elliott,” he told CP24 while marching in the parade and waving to the crowd.

"I appreciate her (Elliott) thoughts. I look forward to her being part of our team. She’ll play an instrumental role and we want to make sure together we are going to defeat Kathleen Wynne and bring prosperity back to the province."

Liberals, NDP come out swinging

Responding to the leadership results, Wynne said regardless of which candidate was chosen to be the next leader of the Ontario PC Party, the result would have been the same.

“Quite frankly, it actually doesn’t matter which of the candidates was chosen last night because if we look at the platform that they were ostensibly running on, there were billions of dollars of cuts that were coming forward,” Wynne said when asked about the leadership vote at the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation’s annual general meeting.

“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.”

Wynne’s comments were echoed by Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who spoke to CP24 in a phone interview.

“Regardless of who took the helm, the bottom line is we have to stop settling for bad or worse in this province,” she said.

“Ontarians deserve better than Kathleen Wynne and they deserve better than Doug Ford.”