This election is pivotal. Yes we’ll be selecting a new Premier, or choosing to keep the one we have. This election however is even more pivotal for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. The PCPO has always been a coalition of many forces on the right, progressives, moderates, Red-Tories, and libertarians. For years, successive leaders have managed to keep all of the plates spinning and everyone happy. Bill Davis and Mike Harris navigated this quagmire on the right very well. Ernie Eves and John Tory, while nice guys, were rather feckless on this front. Now Tim Hudak is in charge and in this election, under his watch, is the biggest threat of a split on the right.
To make a deal and be crowned king of all that’s right-wing, Hudak won the support of leadership rival Randy Hillier. Hillier is well known as being the former ringmaster of the Lanark Landowners Association, and of the Ontario Landowners Association. I rather like this group of unfocused blow-hards because they cut through the political BS and to make some good points on how there is too much government in our lives. But having Randy Hillier involved in the upper echelons of a political party, and possibly having a seat at the cabinet table, is like using a brick to cut an apple pie. Hudak has not been very effective at keeping Hillier under control. Exit Norm Sterling.
Norm Sterling’s exit should serve as a warning shot across the bow of all moderate conservatives in the PCPO… should Hudak blow his chance at the Premier’s Office, the party of the right may split like their federal cousins did almost 20 years ago.
How could Hudak blow his big chance?
Dalton McGuinty, while putting the odd policy out that is somewhat helpful to the Ontario public, has not been an effective or truthful Premier the last eight years in office. McGuinty has flip-flopped on the HST, first stating he did not support it, then implimented it. He said he would not increase taxes and yet he levied the Health Care Premium amounting to up to $900 extra paid per year. McGuinty’s ministers have pissed away billions… BILLIONS… on schemes and plans like E-Health. $1 billion wasted and what do we have to show for it? Zip! When scandals broke out at OLG, E-Health and the like, who was held accountable? No one. A couple of ministers were shuffled around. No one lost their job. No one was sued. All of these are opportunities for the opposition to strike. What has the PCPO done for the last year? Not much.
The PCPO attack dogs have been feckless. Instead of yelling from the rooftop of Queens Park about government waste, they have belly-ached from the floor about trivial minutia. For months people asked what the PCPO would do as an alternative to what the Liberals propose, the answer: “Wait for our platform”.
I know this first hand, I’ve engaged a number of sitting PCPO MPP’s via email and twitter. Same staged answer. When the platform came out, [change book], it was vague. Full of “we will do this” but not answering the tough question of HOW!
So Hudak has a big problem. If he loses, his leadership days of the PCPO will be numbered. If McGuinty wins the question is going to be how, when there have been so many issues, did Hudak not capitalize on them? If Hudak is show the door, the party will split. The Libertarians will have their candidate and the moderates will have theirs. The split may not be immediate, but it will come as both sides will want their turn to do things their way. And the Left will be the beneficiaries of the division. The PCPO just need to look to their federal cousins to see how that worked for them.