Monday, March 23, 2009

The yet to be named Tory race to replace Tory

The Ontario PCs will select a new leader on June 27th.

There's more sniffing going on in this Tory leadership race than at an Andre Boisclair house party, with everyone and their wife sniffing around to gauge the lay of the land. I'll admit that my understanding of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party is minimal - I know Mike Harris used to be Premier, that Ernie Eves delivered his budget in an auto plant a few years ago, and that John Tory doesn't have a seat...that's about it. So don't expect a lot of insightful coverage of the race from this blog. With that in mind, here's my un-insightful look at the field so far.

Diane Finley: For those of you unfamiliar with her (I'm looking at you, everyone), she's married to Harper strategist Doug Finlay, and wears sunglasses [UPDATE: used to!] in the House of Commons. Finley has been relatively untouched by scandal and charges of incompetence, making her one of Stephen Harper's better ministers.

Peter Van Loan: Based on my limited knowledge of the field, PVL would be my early pick as their "best choice". He'd bring the fire, has experienced, and scores fairly low on the "scary scale". Seeing him go head to head with "the small man of confederation" would be a lot of fun too.

Tim Hudak: Tim is the frontrunner in this race, which means that he pretty much has it in the bag, right? All I really know about the man is that Mike Harris has endorsed him, and he ran the "Great Dominion Dust Up" bracketed poll on his blog to find Canada's most inspiring politician (sound familiar?) a few years back, that Louis Riel won. Go figure. While no one will mistake Hudak for Canada's most inspiring politician, the real question is whether he's the most inspiring of this bunch, or not.

Tony Clement: Hasn't lost a leadership race recently, so you just know he's itching to once again experience the thrill of defeat.

Christine Elliott: Seems like a solid candidate, although controlling Jim "last place to invest" Flaherty could be a tougher challenge than Hillary had of muzzling Bill.

Randy Hillier: Would be an entertaining addition to the race, in the same way Craig Chandler was an entertaining addition to the 2003 PC leadership race.

Julian Fantino: Currently, Ontario's Provincial Police Commissioner so he'd have to find a seat if he won the leadership. But, hey, how hard could that be?


UPDATE: The Globe lets some PC strategists weigh in on "life after Tory". For the record, I agree with Jaime Watt that running the Harris playbook again would be a big mistake for them. The Tories need to position themselves as a centrist party and then just pound McGuinty into the ground on the economy. The federal Conservatives won Ontario last election, so it shouldn't be too hard for them to figure out where to target their resources and who will be a part of their winning coalition.

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23 Comments:

  • "Finley has been relatively untouched by scandal and charges of incompetence, making her one of Stephen Harper's better ministers."

    Frightening that this is the measure of success in the Harper government.

    By Blogger Wojtek, at 10:16 PM  

  • Mike Harris, as Premier,, was something like the gang in Ottawa.
    He is close to the Reform party and a friend of Manning. He is not liked in Ontario.

    By Anonymous Cari, at 10:37 PM  

  • Two small corrections: Ernie Eves spelled his surname without an 'a,' and Finley no longer has to wear sunglasses after treatment for an eye problem, which I think we can all agree is good news.

    By Blogger Paul Wells, at 10:45 PM  

  • Not for Ray-ban. Goodbye free advertising on CPAC.

    By Blogger Reality Bites, at 11:08 PM  

  • [Peter Van Loan would] bring the fire, has experience, and scores fairly low on the "scary scale".

    Van Loan's the guy who called the Liberals the "Taliban's Intelligence Department" during the detainee fiasco. He might score low on the "scary scale", but he bends the needle on the "cretin scale".

    [Hillier] would be an entertaining addition to the race, in the same way Craig Chandler was...

    Keep in mind that Chandler was the true victor of that race: his agenda--of an Alliance/P.C. merger--came to pass within months of the leadership convention.

    Hillier's presence in the P.C. race might skew the party hard right--to the delight of the Liberals, who'd then be able to sit back and watch the P.C.'s spiral down the electoral drain.

    By Blogger Sir Francis, at 11:21 PM  

  • Cari's right. We hated Harris so much we re-elected him. The first five years were the worst. 4.7% real GDP growth from 1996-2000. Almost a million new jobs created. How did we ever get through the abject misery Harris inflicted on us? Thankfully McGuinty got elected and moved swiftly to undo the Harris legacy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:25 PM  

  • "...and wears sunglasses in the House of Commons.."

    She wears sunglasses in the House because she has graves disease, a genetic thyroid condition that makes her sensitive to bright lights.
    It can also cause shakes and tremors and sensitivity to heat and cold.

    You are such a jerk!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:27 AM  

  • "...and wears sunglasses in the House of Commons.."

    What exactly about this statement is worthy of the epithet 'jerk'. He simply identified who she is to those who watch the House.

    Christ, let go of the feigned outrage already.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:37 AM  

  • RE: Anonymous, at 11:25 PM

    "Cari's right. We hated Harris so much we re-elected him. The first five years were the worst. 4.7% real GDP growth from 1996-2000. Almost a million new jobs created. How did we ever get through the abject misery Harris inflicted on us? Thankfully McGuinty got elected and moved swiftly to undo the Harris legacy."

    Yes the historic defeat of the PC party in 2003 was all Ernie Eves' fault. The man that ran the province for 5+ years prior had nothing to do with that... dream on Anonymous.

    By Blogger MERBOY, at 8:21 AM  

  • Harris is certainly still popular in some circles, which is why his endorsement of Hudak will probably carry a lot of weight. And, since he was the last guy to win an election for the PCs, there's certainly going to be a sense in PC circles that that's the recipe for success.

    So, a Harris-style pitch would certainly help any candidate win the leadership. The question is how popular that approach would be outside of Conservative circles...

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:35 AM  

  • Diane Finley's riding happens to include Caledonia and she managed to win the last election by avoiding the public as much as possible. If it works and you win, I guess why not!
    If Caledonia ever turns really nasty, watch out.

    By Anonymous Frankie, at 10:53 AM  

  • Even funnier than Finlay:

    Stephen Fletcher uses a wheelchair!

    Those Tories are such jokes! They can't even find able bodied ministers!!!! Pathetic.

    By Anonymous Loyal Grit, at 11:43 AM  

  • I don't really know if I would call it a "historic defeat". They lost, plain and simple and I know people were tired of Harris as well at that point.

    However, after watching McGuinty destroy the Ontario manufacturing sector (300,000 jobs and counting), reduce Ontario to have-not status (and having us be mocked by Danny Williams as a weaker sister of Confederation), and about to at least triple the deficit left to him by Eves I think most Ontarians would agree with Harris that McGuinty simply wasn't up to the job of leading this province.

    You can say all you want about whether or not Ontario liked Harris but the economic data speaks for itself. Under Harris, Ontario prospered and under McGuinty it faltered. This is true both on absolute terms and relative to other jurisdictions so we can't really blame it on the feds.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:49 PM  

  • Anon - Ontario certainly prospered under the first McGuinty term in office. And a lot of the Harris "prosperity" was just a natural rebound from the depression...we saw the same thing in most other provinces and at the federal level.

    But, regardless of the reality, there's certainly a perception that Harris gutted social programs and that Ontarians turned on him by the end of his time in office. That perception is probably stronger in Liberal circles, so maybe I'm reading the tea leaves wrong, but if you had McGuinty versus Harris right now, I think McGuinty would take it hands down.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:29 PM  

  • McGuinty vs Harris... who'd've ever thought things could get this bland, boring, self-absorbed and uninspiring in poor Ontario....

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 4:22 PM  

  • Harris hatred is predominantly shared in LPC and union circles. Since we all know who the media tend to hang out with, it gives it currency.

    Actual popularity is a bit different. One of the major problems that Harris had, as most Conservative governments do, is an attempt to compromise with implacable enemies (i.e. public sector unions) and try to get good press from people who despised him. Eves exhibited this problem even more and lacked policy goals, while Tory was the apotheosis of the problem.

    Conservative parties and governments have to attack daily, moving against the press and the opposition. They can never rely on neutral or positive treatment from the press and need to campaign all day every day against the twin opponents. Unfortunately few do and are thus beset by problems faster than LPC counterpart governments facing the same challenges and proposing similar policies. The late Harris years exhibited drift, as people got too comfortable, the usual idiots got up to corrupt habits, and the alternatives didn't seem as bad (it happens to everyone outside of Alberta).

    By Blogger Hey, at 4:55 PM  

  • "Conservative parties and governments have to attack daily, moving against the press and the opposition. They can never rely on neutral or positive treatment from the press and need to campaign all day every day against the twin opponents.:

    Oh for Chrissakes give it a break -- who, looking at the media landscape in this country, can still talk of an anti-Coonservative bias with a straight face?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:12 PM  

  • Van Loan? Not a Van chance.

    He was point man on Harpers plan to redistribute federal seats from Ontario to the ROC. McGuinty's opposition is what generated the "small man" comment.

    Like him or hate him, McGuinty has stood up for Ontario like no other premier in recent memory.

    By Blogger Brammer, at 6:55 PM  

  • Red Tories used to win in Ontario largely because the Liberals and NDP undercut each other as the main alternative to the PC party. From 1943-1985 Ontario was a 1 and 2 halves party system. That changed when David shot Miller in the foot with the Catholic schools, Peterson established the Liberals as a competent governing choice and Rae utterly discredited his party as the same.

    Red Toryism succeeded because it maintained the split on the left. Now that the Liberals are a clear contender for power in any election that strategy will fail because it means appealing to a lot of voters that won't vote Tory anyway.

    The Mike Harris strategy has been misinterpreted as a dramatic shift to the right. That ignores the complexities of Ontario politics.

    There are four regions in Ontario. Northern Ontario (socially conservative, fiscally very left wing). Central/Eastern Ontario (socially and fiscally conservative). The 905 and other suburbs (socially liberal and fiscally conservative). Urban Ontario (fiscally and socially liberal).

    Mike Harris in 1995 ran fiscally hard to the right, but also as a moderate on social issues (particularly on the debate on Ontario labour laws brewing at the time). Predictably his big accomplishment was winning the 905 in a landslide, twice.

    Eves and Tory failed to offer the 905 the kind of tax breaks Harris had. Without forming a clear alternative, 905'ers went with the party closer to their social values (McGuinty didn't exploit the religious school funding issue without good reason). Eves and Tory also failed to break through in urban Ontario (which was Tory's strategy).

    Another red Tory strategy will run a strong risk of failure, despite advantageous conditions. It won't split the left, because the NDP remains as discredited as ever (they just elected as leader, essentially, a less experienced version of Howard Hampton). It won't convince urban voters either, who will still be afraid of having hordes of cabinet ministers from rural areas. It may make incremental gains in the 905, but it will be less effective than showering the middle class with tax cuts.

    If 905'ers are going to elect a government full of rednecks, they need their chest of silver. That was the winning Harris formula.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 7:13 PM  

  • @ anon - most of the media naturally favours LPC if not NDP. It's the mindset that leads one to go into journalism - if one wants to change the world through telling truth to power, you're very likely to lean left. Once you get success in the media, you're part of the establishment and benefit from ever bigger government. Successful conservative policies attack entrenched economic power of unions, regulated businesses, and people who want to buy off the hostile and their consciences for the benefit of entrepreneurs.

    The media is inherently anti-conservative for the same reason that the bar, accountancy, and doctors are - they're guilds that benefit from regulation and associate with members of other guilds. Walkerton would have happened no matter what the rules were, because of the idiot good ole boy running the testing equipment. A passive conservative government accepted it as an inherent issue with de-regulation rather than the petty corruption of local politicians. True conservative policy needs to be fought for everyday because most inherent frames support additional regulation and state intrusion regardless of their actual effectiveness.

    By Blogger Hey, at 7:51 PM  

  • "Ontario certainly prospered under the first McGuinty term in office. And a lot of the Harris "prosperity" was just a natural rebound from the depression...we saw the same thing in most other provinces and at the federal level."

    Which is why I used the "and relative to other jurisdictions" qualifier. Harris outperformed other jurisdictions in terms of real GDP growth (everyone in North America except Alberta) while under McGuinty Ontario has been outperformed by just about everyone which is why we've joined the have-not ranks.

    It is also why Liberals didn't run on their economic record last election and why the Ontario PCs were upset with John Tory for getting bogged down in a debate about faith-based school funding when he should have been hammering McGuinty over his poor economic performance.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:55 PM  

  • Mike Harris..thank god he is no longer! Thanks for the post!

    By Anonymous michelle, at 11:17 AM  

  • Pretty effective info, thanks so much for this article.

    By Anonymous consejo comprar yate, at 4:51 AM  

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