Lisa MacLeod has dropped out of the Progressive Conservative leadership race today and endorsed Christine Elliott. The MPP for Nepean-Carleton, MacLeod also confirmed that she expects to contest the Ottawa-area federal riding that will become available because of the retirement from politics of former foreign affairs minister John Baird.
MacLeod’s decision comes only two days after MPP for Nipissing Vic Fedeli also suspended his leadership bid and endorsed Elliott.
This leaves Elliott in a three-way race for the PC leadership with MPP Monte McNaughton (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex) and MP Patrick Brown (Barrie). The PC leadership will be decided by a one-member-one-vote preferential-ballot election at a Toronto convention on May 9.
Until now, my personal preferences for leader had been: Christine Elliott as my first choice followed, in order, by Vic Fedeli and Lisa MacLeod. I have no interest at all in seeing either Monte McNaughton or Patrick Brown lead the Ontario PC party.
I was doubtful about McNaughton as a prospective party leader when he declared his candidacy in September. Nothing that I have seen or heard since has changed my mind for the better. If anything, McNaughton’s performance in the London leaders’ debate—the only one in which he participated since he passed on the Sudbury debate—reinforced my misgivings about him.
I have read McNaughton has been a leader in the PCs’ anti-union campaign, and has pledged to break long-term contracts with wind-farm operators should he be elected premier. This seems too much like the hard-edged campaign policies that have gone over like lead balloons in the past three provincial elections. The PC’s need a broader base, and must guard against becoming seen as a northern Tea Party-like movement.
Patrick Brown is similarly one-dimensional and calls (I believe unnecessarily) for the provincial party to totally rebuild, top to bottom. Moreover, I was totally turned off by Brown’s aggressive—and unfair—attack on Christine Elliott during his closing statements at the London leaders’ debate.
The real enemies are Kathleen Wynne’s Grits and, to a lesser extent, the NDP, and not the PC caucus. This Brown had best learn soon if he plans to lead the party. The other candidates seem to understand this; but Brown has chosen to single out front-runner Elliott for his ad hominem attacks.
Patrick Brown has been a Conservative member of the House of Commons since 2006. During that time he seems to have accomplished little that might have distinguished him. This is an excerpt from his website:
In the 41st Parliament, Patrick is playing an active role in serving as a member of the Standing Committee on Health, as a member of the Neurological Disorders Subcommittee, the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee, the Juvenile Diabetes All Party Caucus and he is the Co-Chair of the Malaria Caucus. In 2011, Patrick was appointed by his party as the Chair for the Central Ontario Caucus.”
It’s okay, I suppose, but for someone who apparently believes he is ready to run the provincial PC party I’d expect to see, at least, a parliamentary secretary appointment or even a chairmanship of a high-profile committee. I see only “Member - Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations” under “Roles” at the official Parliament website. And that’s after almost 10 years in the House.
Patrick Brown, though, is a hard-edged social conservative—therefore, he will appeal to a significant portion of the party’s base—and he does seem to have organized his campaign well. His chances should not be underestimated, especially now that he seems to be the only alternative to Christine Elliott.
Some believe Brown could win the party’s leadership by signing up more new members. With a paltry 10,000 members going into the leadership race, adding more new members than your opponent could prove to be the winning strategy. The Ontario PC party membership has historically been in the 100,000 range so there are a lot of potential members out there.
There may be a silver lining of sorts to the reduced number of candidates in the race: perhaps we’ll get less of the irritating night-time telephone calls from the candidates, or is that just wishful thinking?
Regardless, I’m sticking with Christine Elliott as my one and only choice on May 9.