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Monday, April 27, 2009

What sort of conservative leader will Ontario get?

The thing keeping me awake at night these days is the danger that we will replace Dalton McGuinty with a leader who offers tired, yawn-inducing orthodox conservative policies that appeal only to the core small-c members of our party, thereby cutting us off from the mainstream of Ontario voters.

Or, conversely, that we will get a leader who believes that to be successful we conservatives must move the party to the so-called “middle” to broaden its base and improve its chances on election day. Not unlike Stephen Harper, who has compromised to gain and now maintain power—unfortunately without really expanding our party’s base. For despite the abundance of progressive fiscal policies—and lack of addressing conservative social ones—our federal party remains stuck in the mid-30 per cent minority-government-level in opinion polls. Ah, yes, the middle—that mushy anything-goes political zone which is the safe harbour so sought after by timid conservatives who lack real commitment to conservatism or by those who pragmatically abandon their policies in pursuit of power.

Dare we hope for a political leader who can—and here I paraphrase Andrew Coyne—start from traditional conservative principles, yet apply these to different questions, speak in a different language and address different audiences than has traditionally been the case. Essentially, a leader who will broaden our party’s base by deepening it, not by abandoning traditional conservative policies.

I know that politics is a full-contact sport—decades of Trudeau, Chrétien, Martin, Peterson, Rae and McGuinty have taught us that only too well. But can we not avoid the excesses of partisan party politics whereby, for example, we oppose harmonization of the PST-GST just because it is a Liberal Party initiative? Are we not better off opposing the principle of excessive taxes—on the basis that it is un-conservative—and reduce taxes at all levels?

Let us try to change how politics is done in Ontario. Let us identify new political solutions to today’s problems; not old solutions to yesterday’s. Given the very real and serious social and economic challenges and opportunities facing our province, do we really want to distract ourselves with, for example, re-opening the spring bear hunt—thereby reversing a ten-year-old ban introduced by our own party—or by repealing the Liberal ban on Pit Bull dogs?

To the leadership hopefuls I ask: What are your core beliefs? Never mind for a moment what your proposed policies are. Tell us first what you hold most dear. Then tell us how this will be reflected in how you plan to govern our province.

Moreover, I want our leadership contenders to let us in on their vision for Ontario, for surely they each have one. And is it too much to expect them to tell us now, in concrete terms, what Ontario will look like in, say, ten years under her or his stewardship?

Then I would ask each for their sector-by-sector strategies to get us there, and the benchmark measurements we could employ that would measure whether we were on the right track.

But I suspect we’ll get timid, tepid politics as usual. Perhaps I ask too much. Perhaps all I can expect is the current mixed bag of disjointed tactics to achieve poorly-integrated and mostly unidentified goals in support of largely un-communicated visions.

God help Ontario, for He knows Dalton McGuinty won’t.

2 comments — This is a moderated blog and comments will appear when approved. Please don’t resubmit if your comment doesn’t appear immediately, and please do not post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable.

  1. I don't think you are being completely honest here. You seem to be singling out Hillier when, in fact, overall he speaks more to Conservative values than the other candidates. He speaks of private property rights, freedom of speech and a return to due process, returning the value of the vote to the voter, etc. From what I've seen and heard, which I admit is pretty limited, his is the only platform which is actually based on values. The others really haven't said much to differentiate themselves.

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  2. Well said potato. I do agree with what Russ is saying. We need to choose a leader that will be a true conservative, not one of the party elite "red tories". The only candidate that I see as distanced from the party elite is Randy Hillier. He is the only candidate that has offered any type of conservative platform. The other candidates are all John Tory supporters. I saw Randy at the '08 PCPO AGM and was impressed because he was interacting with the people of the party, not the party elite. The only hope for Ontario, Canada and the world is to return to true conservatism.

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