|Posted on January 28, 2015 at 11:55 AM|
As PC members, we are right to point out lapses in the judgment and integrity of our Liberal counterparts.
In 2003 (and again in 2007) Dalton McGuinty pledged not to raise taxes in Ontario. The legacy of the McGuinty/Wynne era are outrageous tax grabs - health care levy, HST, and carbon tax to name a few – and record public debt. As PC members, we cringe at the brazen audacity of Premiers McGuinty and Wynne, who will say anything during an election campaign to mask their tax and spend agenda.
But as the saying goes, those who live in glass houses can’t throw stones.
My own experience with seeking the PC nomination in Newmarket-Aurora demonstrates what was wrong with the PC Party under Tim Hudak’s leadership. In March of 2014, I received an email from the committee that oversees nominations informing me in no uncertain terms that Tim Hudak himself intervened to block my candidature.
A few weeks later, while under intense media and public pressure, Tim Hudak showed his real colours. During a visit to Richmond Hill to promote Vic Gupta’s campaign, Hudak denied his intervention in my nomination review to the media, and tried to distance himself from the decision to block me.
Rather than stand by his decision, Tim Hudak prevaricated and told a white lie to escape from the pressure he was facing. The voters of York Region saw right through it and the results were entirely predictable. Going into the election, the PCs hoped to make breakthroughs in Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Markham-Stouffville (all three ridings are Conservative federally). Not only did we lose all three, we also lost Newmarket-Aurora - and thanks to a recount that overturned the original vote count, we held on to Thornhill by just a whisker of a margin of victory. Federally, Thornhill and Newmarket-Aurora are also held by Conservatives.
In the process of handing over York Region to the Liberals, Tim Hudak handed Ontario over to a Liberal majority.
All of this because he failed to stand by his decision.
The reason Hudak refused to sign my papers: his feelings were hurt because I was critical of his direction in the media.
The irony: each candidate at Monday’s leadership debate all but admitted I was right.
On Monday night, Christine Elliott stood in front of a packed room of PC supporters and categorically denied in a debate that she had no prior knowledge of the Hudak plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs. The problem with that statement is that it isn’t true. That’s because documents leaked to the media show that she did in fact sign off on the public sector job cut platform.
It doesn’t matter what she does next to try and distance herself from that revelation. The facts are that she was Deputy Leader of the PC Party under Hudak, and she signed off on his austerity plan that voters soundly rejected. Now she’s attempting to convince us she didn’t support Hudak’s plan.
As a consequence, she’s painted a very large target on the PC Party in 2018 should she be elected leader.
Remember the federal campaign in 2004? The Paul Martin led-Liberals held on to govern by labeling Stephen Harper as having a “secret agenda”. They succeeded at making Conservatives seem scary to voters and not trustworthy.
Christine Elliott’s signature of approval on Hudak’s 2014 job cuts plan is all the evidence Liberals will need to recycle the “secret agenda” scare tactics against the Ontario PCs in a 2018 campaign. In 2018, expect the Liberals and their allies in the Working Family Coalition benefitting greatly from a PC Party led by Christine Elliott.
But what continues to amaze me are those who are critical of Patrick Brown for raising this flaw in the Christine Elliott leadership campaign, claiming it’s an “attack” on the party and disrespectful of the caucus.
The message smacks strongly of Hudak’s failed one: you’re either loyal to the leader or you’re a defector. Elliott’s campaign message that PC’s need to be united under one big, accommodating, welcoming umbrella is an empty one if she can’t accept criticism of her record.
Contrast this to Alberta politics, where the PCs have been in power for over 40 years. In Alberta, when the PC Party finds itself with a leader who threatens the success of the province, such as Ed Stelmach and Allison Redford, the party replaces them - and then moves on cohesively.
There was plenty of talk about Tim Hudak’s failings as leader in 2013 - in particular his Hudak-bunker mentality towards outsiders - but rather than showing him the door, his leadership was wholly supported by the likes of Christine Elliott, Lisa McLeod, Vic Fidelli, and Monte McNaughton.
They were loyal to their leader even as their leader drove the grassroots off a cliff.
When I compare Ontario PC politics to our conservative brethren in the US, where those vying for the Republican presidential nomination undergo intense scrutiny by opponents during a grueling primary schedule, I am frankly concerned.
Just as pressure on coal makes diamonds, so too does a candidate transform into a leader while facing pressure. As a PC member I want to know about the flaws of any potential leader during the leadership race as opposed to during a 2018 general election campaign.
That means questioning their leadership, their values, their records, and yes, even their integrity, is all fair game. These things are not “attacks.” These things are the stuff campaigns are made on: vetting the best leader.
If the candidates want to repeat the Hudak-bunker mentality of “us” (caucus and their loyalists) vs. “them” (grassroots members) by silencing fair challenge, we’re heading down the same disastrous path Hudak led us.
Real “in-fighting” takes place behind closed – not public – doors, and it’s why Hudak lost.
Finally, PC members would be wise to follow the Toronto Star’s reporting of the PC Leadership race before deciding who to support as leader. The Toronto Star is unabashedly biased towards the Liberals as per the paper’s corporate policy and its Atkinson Principle. The paper is also overtly supportive of Christine Elliott and very critical of Patrick Brown.
Why would an admittedly pro-Liberal paper support Christine Elliott over Patrick Brown? I think PC members know the answer to that question.
To be clear, I have immense respect for Christine Elliott, who is an incredible asset to the PC party, and I do not question her integrity an iota. But I think if she were reading this, she would agree that encouraging grassroots members to speak from their heart during a leadership campaign is good for the party’s growth. This is after all, her campaign message.
For the record, I am enthusiastically supporting Patrick Brown as the next leader of the PC Party. I believe that his message of modeling the provincial party after the success of the federal Conservatives is the way to victory. The federal Conservatives have 100,000 members in Ontario and a campaign war chest that is ready to win this fall. By contrast, the Ontario PCs have just 10,000 members and are almost $8 million in debt.
The Ontario PC Party has to regain fighting form in time for 2018 and I believe only Patrick Brown has the ideas, the initiative, and the plans to ensure that we return to government.
Since 2003, Ontario voters have been telling us that they soundly reject the leadership representing the PC Party elites, insiders, and consultants. Frankly, there is too much baggage and voters simply don’t trust the “establishment’s candidate.”
Members are wise to seek an authentic, grassroots driven leader who is from outside the Queen’s Park elite to lead Ontario.
I believe that Patrick Brown is that person and I hope that you will support him too.