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.