Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tim Hudak and Jane McKenna: I’ll hang onto my money and sit this one out

Today I received a letter from the president of the Burlington Progressive Conservative Riding Association asking for contributions in support of Jane McKenna and Tim Hudak’s campaign in the upcoming provincial general election. This request really annoyed me, prompting me to write this entry.

One of the benefits of a democracy is one gets to vote for one’s choice for the local provincial (and federal) member of parliament. And one of the really neat benefits of being a riding association member is one gets the opportunity to vote for a fellow member to be nominated as the candidate. That is, association members get in on the ground floor, so to speak, by selecting the candidate to represent the riding.

Well, usually they do.

Back in March, I eagerly anticipated the Oct. 6 general election. Our rather lackluster MPP had announced her retirement, and we had two credible contenders ready to run for the nomination with perhaps a third still to declare. We were set for a competitive nomination process.

This was an important choice for PC party members in Burlington, for the odds favoured our party beating the Dalton McGuinty Liberals. And it would have been nice to replace retiring incumbent MPP Joyce Savoline with another PC, continuing the riding’s 40+-year PC tradition for another four years.

Or so it seemed at the time, but that was before things began to unravel.

Brad Reaume, a (former?) senior adviser to PC MPP Ted Chudleigh, was considering the nomination. He’d contested Joyce Savoline’s by-election nomination in 2007. Reaume had obviously passed whatever scrutiny he had to from the party’s head office and made a well-received speech at that 2007 nomination meeting—probably the best of the evening. But in 2011 he, apparently, was not good enough to face the membership and didn’t receive approval to run for the nomination—so he withdrew. He was good enough in 2007, but not so in 2011.

I was disappointed that only two candidates had emerged as I’d expected three or more. But these two candidates seemed very able, which augured well for the recovery of the political health of the conservative cause in Burlington. Progressive on the social side and conservative on the fiscal side, both sounded a lot like Bill Davis’s Progressive Conservatives.

Disappointment number two. René Papin, a former president of the Burlington PC riding association had declared his intention to seek the nomination and seemed to have received the blessing of Tim Hudak and the party’s head office. But what the party’s head office giveth, the party’s head office can and does, sometimes, taketh away.

In late May Papin withdrew from the race. “I have been advised that my candidacy, at this time, does not fit the strategic direction of the party, and that it would be in the best interests of the party if I were to withdraw,” he said in a media release.

Say what? Papin once served as president of the riding association—he was the voice of the PCs here in Burlington—so how did he “not fit the strategic direction of the party” and why was it “in the best interests of the party” that he withdraw? Why not let the man run and allow the membership to decide? That would have been the democratic way.

We were then left with a single candidate for the nomination, local lawyer Brian Heagle. And so I waited for the nomination meeting. And waited, and waited.

Then Jane McKenna declared she’d be seeking the nomination. As far as I could tell, McKenna had no previous political experience other than losing badly in the 2010 municipal election—she ran as a candidate for Ward 1 City Councillor against winner, Rick Craven, and placed a poor fifth out of five candidates. I was shocked for I thought that surely the we PCs could do better than a candidate that could only garner 565 votes for a fifth place finish in the Ward 1 race.

But, at least, we still had 2009 Citizen of the Year Brian Heagle, a strong candidate. So I waited for the nomination meeting. And waited. And waited.

Disappointment number three. Brian Heagle formally withdrew from the nomination race in mid-July. Thud! Apparently, Heagle could not wait any longer for the nomination—he had already waited nine weeks and had to get on with his life.

Disappointment number four. Jane McKenna—the only candidate—was acclaimed. After several decades of trying unsuccessfully to take the riding from the Tories, this must have been great news indeed for Grits and Dippers in Burlington.

And today I’m asked to send money?

The way this past PC nomination process unfolded in Burlington is the sort of thing that sours many old-time PC supporters who have helped keep the Burlington riding Tory-blue for decades—they’ve told me so themselves. We believe, you see, that we’re reasonably smart people and resent being treated like sheep. And we believe in democratic processes. We believe we’re quite capable of choosing a candidate from a pool of more than one—we’ve been doing it for decades.

There seems to be the belief among PC strategists that dyed-in-the-wool conservatives will never vote Liberal or NDP. And this is true in my case, but I’ll repeat myself and say that—after voting in every provincial and federal election since the early sixties—this might just be enough to keep me at home on October 6. And, yes, I am bitter.

So, Mr. Hudak and Ms. McKenna, I’ll hang onto my money and sit this one out.



© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.


  1. Democracy in this country is going the way of the Dodo. More and more it seems that the party establishment is overruling the decisions of the riding associations; and this is happening in all parties. Dictatorship of the provincial or national (as the case may be)party hierarchy is rapidly becoming the norm. Canadians are watching their democratic birthright being co-opted by the party elites; and the sad part is they don't give a damn.

  2. Bitter enough Russ to let the McGuinty Libs win another round?

    I don't like my local candidate either but I will hold my nose and vote for him because -- we have to get rid of the current govt.

    Hopefully by October 6th, you'll change your mind for the good of the whole.

  3. Unbelievable. I hear it's time for a true-right party in Ontario, and it does NOT contain the word "progressive" anywhere in its name.

  4. Who cares what place you come in? People who have the audacity to run for public office have my full respect, regardless of party. It is gotcha journalism like this that discourage Canadians from running for public office, which they have every right to.

    And Russ, wasn't it Ronald Reagan that said that we shouldn't attack our fellow conservatives? Maybe you should listen to one of the most successful President's in US history, who might I mention, lost the GOP primary in 76' by coming last and who later went on to achieve a landslide against Carter in 1980.

  5. I have to agree with everything you wrote expect that a Conservative would never vote for any other party. When I see a party stymie bright, competent candidates for a puppet like McKenna I have to wonder... what are they hiding? I want a candidate who will represent Burlington, not one on Hudak's (or anyone's) strings.

  6. Jane McKenna isn't a puppet. Go speak to her and you'll see a passionate community advocate. That's why she won the nomination. Heagle and Papin, on their own accord dropped out because people started to support the better candidate: Jane. Even though everyone thinks this election is about Burlington and that's all that should be discussed, it is really about Ontario. We are a have-not province, with a government that is plagued with scandals, debt, and deceit. A government who has created the worst hospital wait times in Burlington. People need to realize the only way to solve our LOCAL issues, is to first solve our PROVINCIAL ones. We can't just walk down to City Hall to fix the hospital, get all day kindergarten in our neighbourhoods or complain about the defecit. We need someone that will represent Burlington with distinction at Queens Park. This election is about selecting that person, so its about Ontario. Jane McKenna is by far the most qualified candidate for the job and Tim Hudak is by far the most qualified to become Premier of this Province so Ontario can lead again. Only by solving our Provincial issues can we solve our local ones.

  7. PhilC,

    Of course we should care how McKenna placed in her only election. Did you miss the point that we PCs want to *win* the Burlington riding.

    As to your comment: "That's why she won the nomination." Nonsense. McKenna won nothing; she was acclaimed--there is a big difference.

    Your words: "Heagle and Papin, on their own accord dropped out because people started to support the better candidate." Again nonsense. I know both of those candidates, and your claim is far from the truth, but I think you know that very well.

    And this silliness: "Even though everyone thinks this election is about Burlington and that's all that should be discussed, it is really about Ontario." Nonsense! To win Ontario, we Burlington voters have *first* to win Burlington riding. Voting for a dud does nothing for the residents of Burlington.

    And finally: "Jane McKenna is by far the most qualified candidate for the job…" Bullocks! Give a single scrap of evidence to support this outrageous claim.

    The purpose of a nomination meeting is for voters in a riding to select the person *they* want to represent them; not rubber stamp some candidate selected for them by PC headquarters.

    Why not try the democratic way, you may like it.

    BTW, do you even qualify to vote in Burlington? If so, give your name. What part of town do you live in? In other words, have the spunk to identify yourself and own your words.

  8. Who is Russ Campbell? What election has he won lately, or ever? Before you heap scorn on someone who dares to take a shot at improving our province, why don't you run yourself? or at least present your credentials so we can know who and what you arew.

  9. Lester,

    I haven't won any elections lately, or ever--not wait, I once won an election to be president of a credit union. What's you point? Is your view of democracy that one needs to have won an election before one dares criticize a nomination process that acclaimed a candidate with a questionable background to be an MPP? I'm not running for anything, but Jane McKenna is. As such, her track record in elections is relevant.

    As to my credentials "so we can know who and what you are." All you have to do is read the "about" page on my blog. BTW, "Lester", why not tell us a bit about yourself? Or is the cover of anonymity more your style?

  10. Same thing happened with Mulroney's Government before it imploded. A number of "like-minded people" get together and say I like you, you should come to form the Government with us. It has nothing to do with skill and everything to do with ego.

    And the challenge is that ego's that run for politics quickly make the papers for all the wrong reasons. Thankfully most of these egos are quickly forgotten.

    For example, Jack MacLaren recently displaced sitting MPP Norm Sterling in Carleton-Mississippi Mills with the help of the PC Party becuase Jack's father-in-law (Rick Hillier)supported Tim Hudak to win the PC leadership. Norm Sterling supported his constituents endlessly but all you have to do is pack the meeting and the rest is history.

    In some cases it is better to vote for same the devil you know than the devils who are lined up at the gate with only real plans to get more of their supporters in key places. And most of them are the heads of radicalized special interest groups if you take the time to investigate.