While here in the West Coast we have a relative tame and stable BC Liberal leadership race, quite a different story is going down in my former province of Ontario with the Progressive Conservatives. It seems every hour something new comes up so rather than discussing each event, I will summarize the three things I believe the PCs need to do in order to get back on track.
1. Discipline and Unity
2. Stop Doug Ford at all costs
3. Stay close to the centre, don’t lurch rightward
Discipline and Unity
Any party that wishes to form government needs to first show it can manage its own affairs; if it cannot do that, then why should voters trust it to govern the province. Due to the speed things are happening at, I believe the PCs need to use the next week to survey the wreckage and decide strategically what to do, not make rash decisions. Yes time is tight, but getting things wrong will just dig a deeper hole. Also once the next leader is chosen the party needs to be united if they want to win. At this point the focus should be on the person, not altering the policy. The party has already voted in favour of the People’s Guarantee so minor tweaks are fine but major changes will just cause more infighting and hurt the party’s chances.
Stop Doug Ford at all costs
Allowing Doug Ford to be the next leader or even a major contender will be bad news for the party. Even if somehow he were to become premier, his past behaviour, shows it would likely lead to a bad defeat in the subsequent election and more importantly hurt the province. The good news is there are four ways I believe he can be stopped without causing too much collateral damage. Maybe not all four are possible, but the party needs to look at each option and decide which of the four will be the most effective in blocking him while limiting the collateral damage.
1. Draft in the next week a criteria each candidate must meet to be greenlighted and any who fail will be blocked by the executive. After what happened with Brown, the party has a good reason to put in this type of check. The important thing is the rules should be fair and reasonable and apply equally to all candidates not just Doug Ford.
2. Ask Doug Ford to also run for a nomination in a riding. It’s tough to be premier without a seat in the legislature so he needs to find a place to run, not after being chosen, but before. Every candidate wishing to run under the PC banner has to be greenlighted and there are clear transparent rules. I believe there is a good chance Doug Ford would fail here thus disqualifying him.
3. Get at least 30, preferably more existing candidates to commit to withdraw their candidacy if he is chosen. The party has almost 100 candidates lined up and is better prepared than any other party. If several resigned they would lose this so hopefully this would send Ford the message he will damage not help the party infrastructure.
4. Do an internal poll on various candidates and once the internal polls are completed show Doug Ford the results. If the internal polls show him losing to the Liberals or NDP or at least doing much worse than others, that might do the trick. He has a big ego and hates the idea of losing so this might get him to bow out much like O’Leary did federally when an internal poll showed the same.
Stay close to the centre don’t lurch rightward
There has unfortunately been a strong element who wants to pull the party to the right even though that is exactly what they don’t need to do. Whether its they want a party to support their viewpoints even if that makes them unelectable or they are delusional to actually believe Ontario will vote for a strongly right wing party, I don’t know. But they cannot be allowed to win this one. If you look at past results, there is zero evidence that Ontario will support a hard right party; if anything history suggests Ontario is a fairly centrist province and likes parties that are close to the middle. Both provincially and federally, contrary to popular opinion, the Tories have generally been pretty middle of the road like what Brown was trying to make them. Being more right wing is a very recent phenomenon and largely based on the idea of importing GOP policies forgetting Ontario is in Canada and US style conservatism has never sold well north of the border. The PCs are still a conservative party, just a Canadian not American style one and that is how it hopefully stays. From 1943-1985, the PCs were a middle of the road party and governed 42 years straight while since 1985 more often than not, they have ran on a more right wing platform and only governed 8 out of 33 years. Otherwise 100% vs. 25%, I think taking the 100% route makes a lot more sense even though there is no guarantee it will work. Likewise federally in the last 30 years, the Liberals (even if you took the combined PC + Reform/Alliance vote) have won the majority of seats in Ontario 6 of the 9 times, 2 of the 9 times were a Tory plurality while only once was it a majority. Those are not great odds so that says to me the party has a strong base, but must expand to get in the 40s instead of 30s and thus be able to win a majority of seats. Social conservatism has never been part of the platform not even under Harper or Harris, so the party wisely needs to stay away from it. Likewise, we should be for smaller government, but not slash and burn. That may have worked for Mike Harris, but failed miserably for Hudak. Never mind with strong economic growth and deficit being modest, there is no real appetite for this. People only support this when you hit a crisis point, not as a normal policy most of the time. On the carbon tax, opposing it makes little sense as most believe climate change is real and playing on the idea it is a hoax doesn’t work in a country where people trust the experts. It might work in the US, but again over 40% of Americans think the earth is only 6,000 years old whereas in Canada that percentage is under 20%. Also the Liberals are in power federally until at least October 21, 2019 and likely longer so as long as they are in office, Ontario doesn’t have a choice. Yes they can try to fight it in court like Kenney and the incoming Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe promise, but that seems futile. It may work politically in those provinces as the Tories federally have strong leads in both so you can win by strictly appealing to federal Tory voters, but in Ontario you need some soft Liberal votes and that might explain why Manitoba which has similar political circumstances to Ontario is taking a different route.