Friday, June 19, 2009

Tim Hudak impresses in TVO’s leadership debate

Today is put up or shut up day for me. As readers of this blog know, I’ve been undecided on whether to give my support to Tim Hudak or to Christine Elliott. After watching the  leadership debate last night on TVO’s The Agenda, however, I have made my decision.

To start with, I was not at all impressed with Frank Klees as a potential leader of our party. Oh, he has poise and more experience than the rest, I know this. However, I find it hard to get a grasp on where he stands on substantive issues. Perhaps I’ve missed something that others see in the man. I have the same general impression of him that I had the last time he ran for leader of the party.

Going into the debate, Christine Elliott was in a virtual dead heat as my first choice, but she lost my vote last night. I thought her performance was lackluster. And her flat-tax proposal and terrific 2011 election plan, which have loads of appeal, was not enough to win me over when combined with her position regarding human rights tribunals and her so-called progressive “compassionate” approach to politics. For goodness sake, am I to infer that the past Progressive Conservative governments that I supported were not compassionate?

Ms. Elliott seems to have bought into the stereotype that the left-Libs, New Democrats and many in the media have made of Mike Harris and his ministers. Apparently, she has forgotten the mess Ontario’s economy was in when Mr. Harris unveiled his Common Sense Revolution platform. Back then in 1994, our province had an $11 billion deficit—fifteen years ago, that was a staggering number—and we were mired in a Canada-wide recession. Mr. Harris was a populist representing the interests of ordinary Ontarians—he was no compassionless demon.

I want to know where Christine Elliott truly stands on the substantive issues, not what stand she thinks will win the 2011 general election. Ms. Elliott is a valuable asset to our party, but will be my second choice on the ballot.

Randy Hillier won some fans last night, but I’m not sure how many first-choice votes that will translate into. Mr. Hillier represents an essential ingredient in any conservative party. His platform resonates well and provides a sort of moral compass for those of our members who sometime tend to drift too much to the left.

My choice is now obvious to you readers, but let me explain that, when the debate started, I was quite prepared to be convinced to vote for Ms. Elliott. That never happened.

Tim Hudak is now my first choice and will get my support on Sunday. In my view he won the debate, though not with a knock-out punch. He more closely represents an ideal candidate than any of the others do. He is a Pure Laine conservative while offering a platform that should have wide appeal in the next general election. I really like that he seems proud of his political roots and association with the Mike Harris government, while supporting progressive ideas that will be good for Ontario families.

Mike Harris was just the sort of premier this province needed in 1995. He was strong medicine, but a perfect fit with the situation and the times. Though a very different sort of person than Mr. Harris, Mr. Hudak will make a fine premier in 2011.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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  1. Excellent.

    A very thoughtful post. Well done.

  2. It's funny because your thoughts in many ways echo my own...trying to tell others to be ashamed of the Harris legacy is insulting to thousands of committed Tories who are justifiably proud of what did get accomplished. Red Tories, like Liberals, do not have a monopoly on compassion.

    Did you notice last night that Klees at one point referred to his supporters simply as memberships and later tried to indicate he was respectful of the grassroots! How respectful can you be when your supporters are reduced merely to being signed pieces of paper who vote?

  3. Al, good point re Klees. He just doesn't seem the man for the job.