Ivoted on Sunday in the Ontario PC leadership election so, at least in my case, the die is cast so to speak. Some of the 76,587 eligible members will not vote until the second voting day on Thursday, May 7, and then we’ll hear the results on Saturday, May 9.
I voted for the veteran PC MPP for Whitby–Oshawa, Christine Elliott, who I believe ran a competent and well-balanced campaign.
I really do believe Ms. Elliott’s promise “to grow the Big Blue Tent,” and see in her a leader with the ability “to clean up the mess left by the Liberals because we will win seats in all regions of the province, including the GTA and Toronto,” as her web site puts it.
With Christine Elliott as leader, I see hope for real change in the Ontario PC party’s fortunes. Her politics differ from that of the former leader, Tim Hudak’s. And that’s a good thing since Hudak’s politics were soundly rejected by Ontarians in two general elections.
Classic progressive conservatism used to be at the heart of our party’s core beliefs—that is back in the days when the party governed the province for an uninterrupted run from 1943 to 1985. Ms. Elliott, it seems to me, is the candidate most likely to return the party to its roots, which seems to be summed up by her catchphrase, “fiscal responsibility and social compassion.”
In contrast, I don’t see how Patrick Brown improves the Ontario PCs’ prospects beyond those we had under Tim Hudak. Neither do I find anything about him inspiring, nor do I see enough difference between the tone of his politics and that of the past two PC election platforms to give rise to my hope of another Ontario PC government in my lifetime.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: What Mr. Brown’s supporters see in someone who has accomplished as little in Ottawa as he has is beyond me. Mr. Brown has not even committed to running provincially if he loses his leadership bid. Instead he says he’ll run if asked.
Why in heaven’s name does he need to be asked? Hell, the man is running for the leadership of the party! Who asked him to do that? Apparently, this career politician sees his future as either an Ontario PC party leader, or he’s prepared to return to relative obscurity as an Ottawa Tory backbencher.
In recent elections, the Ontario PCs have run on a right-wing platform, not even giving lip-service to policies that would be consistent with the “progressive” element of its name. And this I believe has been a mistake. As I have written before:
Many famous conservative statesmen have been proud to have their names associated with progressive–conservatism, including Benjamin Disraeli, Stanley Baldwin, Winston Churchill, David Cameron, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower and the federal PC prime ministers who have represented Canada’s conservative movement prior to Stephen Harper.
Few, if any, of these statesmen would accept the label of “Liberal Light,” one Mr. Brown likes to pin on Ms. Elliott. Yet Mr. Brown could not fill the leadership or statesman shoes of a single member of the aforementioned group.
Contrary to what Mr. Brown would, apparently, have us believe, being a progressive conservative is not the same as being a Liberal, although a successful political party in Ontario does need to attract votes from both centre-left and centre-right, where most Liberals reside on the political spectrum. As I recall, former premier Bill Davis had little if any problem differentiating his party from the Ontario Liberals and beat them every time he went he went up against them.
In recent times, Ontario’s PC party has become so closely identified with right-wing (rather than centre-right) politics that its members are often referred to in the media simply as “Conservatives” as if the federal party and the provincial party were indistinguishable.
To be sure, the parties share policies, membership, volunteers, etc., and the federal party—the direct successor of the right-wing populist Reform Party of Canada—under Stephen Harper has borrowed much from former premier Bill Davis’s progressive conservative style of governing. I would say that, despite its right-wing reputation in the media, the federal Conservatives govern more like a traditional Canadian-style PC government than did former PC premier Mike Harris or, I suspect, Tim Hudak would have done.
In Christine Elliott, I see a chance to return to a common sense approach with core conservative values informing our fiscal policy and a progressive approach to programs such as health care, education, public transit, mental health and ecology.
That’s my dream.
My nightmare is that a Patrick Brown victory on May 9 will be followed by eight more years of political irrelevance for the Ontario PC party.