Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Time for Hudak to go?

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The leader of the Progressive Conservatives of Ontario, Tim Hudak, despite losing two by-elections last week, quickly dismissed suggestions that he should consider resigning. In fact, he’s quoted as saying he’s confident his party would win the next election.

Hudak blames what he called “a big, hard wall of hard-core union support and activism” for his party’s loss in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding—a riding the Progressive Conservatives had held for 22 years, and which became vacant when senior PC Elizabeth Witmer retired after accepting from Dalton McGuinty a plumb $188,000-a-year-job as Chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

I have no doubt the Tory campaign was opposed by “a big, hard wall of hard-core union support and activism,” as Hudak put it, but won’t this sort of opposition be faced across the board in the province’s next general election, tentatively scheduled to be held on October 1, 2015?

So how can the PCs’ intrepid leader be so confident that his party would win the next election? Perhaps it’s the same sort of false or pretend confidence that made him say how certain he was that he’d win the general election in 2011 or the by-elections last week.

Frankly, my confidence in the man was shaken by his party’s less than stellar performance during the 2011 campaign and again in the two recent by-elections. And I agree with Hudak’s own assessment when he told media representatives, “The buck stops with me, I’m always the leader.”

I take little or no consolation from the fact that the situation would have been worse had the Grits won Kitchener-Waterloo and secured a majority government. What I see is a Tory party that has 36 seats, which is one less than it had on last October’s election night and only 10 more than it won under their leader John Tory four years earlier, and 12 more than it won under Ernie Eaves four years before that.

Yes, a net of 12 seats won after almost a decade of bungling by Dalton McGuinty’s Grits.

If our PC leader cannot win a seat that’s been Tory for 22 years, what hope is there that he can win, at least, the 54 seats necessary to form a majority government?

But let’s be realistic: Tim Hudak is almost certainly going to be the leader in 2015. After all, he survived the automatic leadership review following last October’s general election with just under 80 per cent of support from party members.

Moreover, with no compelling alternative readily available to quickly replace Hudak, it would be political suicide for the party to hold a protracted leadership contest with the possibility of a snap election at any time—the Liberals are, after all, a minority government.

So, I for one do not believe the prospects are very bright for a PC government in Ontario much before another two elections. Put another way, I believe Hudak will lose the next general election and only be replaced as leader after that.


  1. No,

    Hudak has finally rebuilt some of the grassroots party infrastructure that had been missing/destroyed since the 1999 election, and the breakthrough in Eastern, Central, Southwestern and Midwestern Ontario are pretty clear evidence of that.

    We have riding (real) associations in every riding again run by folks from within that riding (finally)

    Eves and Tory did huge damage to the party and the way we campaigned and raised money. The PC's were reduced to being scattered tribes of ridings sprinkled across Ontario with no regional powerbase.

    It took Harper two elections against a far more corrupt and incompetent incumbent to break through in the exact same regions Hudak did in a single election last October.

    If Hudak can appeal to the 905's in general, and Peel Region (Which Harper swept in May 2011) he can form a government.

    He just needs to find the issue that will do that.

  2. His excuse of blaming others - the big bad unions - is hardly "buck stops here" stuff. A few union organizers can't explain a loss of 7000 votes (12%) in K-W, nor his not gaining really anything in Vaughn (not that he was expected to win, but he should have shown some progress after Fantino's win at the very least, especially if the argument as made by Mark is to hold).

    But I do want to correct something you wrote because it has oft been repeated by far right conservatives who don't like middle of the road conservatives, and because I like Witmer. You repeated a claim that "PC Elizabeth Witmer retired after accepting from Dalton McGuinty a plumb $188,000-a-year-job as Chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board".

    This is not correct and is unfair to Witmer. She decided to leave politics, after a decade and a half in politics mind you, because her husband was diagnosed with cancer: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1252738--elizabeth-witmer-left-politics-after-husband-diagnosed-with-cancer.

    I assume that you, Russ, had no intention of besmirching her good reputation as a public servant the way others have, but I thought it important to point out because it is incorrect.

    1. You are correct, Ted, I have no intention of besmirching Ms. Witmer's good reputation as a public servant. I do, however, stand by my statement as being factual.

      She may have had other good and valid reasons for leaving politics, but her resignation coincided with her acceptance of a patronage position given to her by the Liberal government--and this was after only about seven months of offering her services as MPP. Seems a bit crass to me, her long and honourable public service notwithstanding.

    2. So you actually think she’s lying, Russ? Really?
      And what is crass about it? Her husband was diagnosed with cancer after the election – he’s even had to sell off his solid dental practice – and she needed a job, a 9-5 job that did not have such demands on her out-of-office-hours time.
      Politics is a small world. Bloggers and partisans tend to think that it is all out warfare, but Queen’s Park is a pretty small world. Word about these types of things circle around very fast. Maybe McGuinty heard about it and saw an opportunity. Good lord, maybe he was even showing some basic human decency to a decent person who served her party, her constituents and the province for over two decades.
      I know from experience that when it comes to time to exit, except in some cases, but especially when it relates to family health, all arms are put down.
      And to suggest it was something sneaky or something other than what Witmer herself claims is really low.

    3. Lying? Who said she was lying? But she did accept a patronage appointment from the Liberals and she did resign to take that job. For a senior PC to do that is, IMO, somewhat crass.

      Lots of other jobs out there...most of us fill out an application along with other candidates and win the job on merit. A privileged few have the job handed to them on a proverbial silver platter so that their old job can come up for grabs in a by-election.

      That's all I have to say on the subject, Ted. Thanks for your comments.

  3. Hudak won't win. Period. So move on.
    Is it me, or had the PCs done worse in Peel and other adajacent 905 areas than 416-Toronto itself? PCs need to start attracting more fit and fiscal conservatives that live and work within the urban sections of Ontario. Some guy with a stomach paunch for Vaughan isn't going to cut it - save for a one-time (Rob Ford) protest vote against another flawed challenger.

  4. It seems to me the PC party is killing itself. The left of the PC which is close to the liberals do not like Hudak. They think he is too much like Harris. The right think he is not right enough. Perhaps people should just read the platform he is putting together and get involved by talking about the platform. He has some very good policies.

  5. Russ, good to see you blogging again after a summer hiatus!

    Voters and the media naturally tend to fixate on a party's leader. That tendency hasn't worked to Mr. Hudak's advantage - yet. How to improve the situation (beyond an image makeover or replacement)?

    The strongest and most effective leaders surround themselves with the best team, and provide opportunities for that talent to shine. Of course, Mr. Hudak doesn't get to pick his PC MPPs (voters do), but I believe that he can and should do more with them.

    Putting forward progressive and conservative policies is part of creating a winning formula. That's not enough. Show the public who will be the stewards of those policies, and who actually constitutes "the government in waiting".

    It's an exercise for voters to visualize the future now. It's also a sign of a mature leader feeling secure about his position, and gets the message out that PCs are much more than one individual.

    More PCs may be encouraged by this inclusive approach and put their names forward in upcoming elections. The "alternatives", as you call them, could become a formidable talent roster to help ensure the party becomes again a growing, sustainable political force.

    And that's the type of leader worth voting for.

    On a final note, Russ, if you see the PCs in power only after the next general election - then who gets elected next time? Do you have a vision of Premier Andrea or Premier Deb in mind?

    1. Nice to hear from you, Brian. Mr. Hudak's put himself front and centre. If, as leader and virtually the PC's only spokesperson, he can't make a difference in a riding held for 22 years by his party we're in deep trouble. A leader needs to be able to impact more than just his own riding.

      I believe that if an election was held today, we'd probably have a minority Dipper government and the PC would be in third place. Three years from now the PC could probable move into second place, but I'm not able to call first place other than it won't be PCs.

      Three years is a long time in politics, as you well know. So perhaps the PCs will fare better.