By Alexander Campbell
Special to The Cheap Seats
“Keep searchin’ Till I find what’s right.
And as the sunset faded, I spoke to the famous first starlight
And I said ‘next time, I’ll get it right!’
– Bob Seger
The provincial Tories have spent the last decade in a wilderness that is entirely of their own making.
Since 1985, the provincial Tories have had nine leaders (6 elected, 3 interim) and will elect the tenth on May 9th. That means that the average career shelf life of a Progressive Conservative Leader in this province is roughly equivalent to that of an NFL running back.
Tories have lurched unsuccessfully around the spectrum veering from their right wing (Miller, Harris, Hudak) to their moderate wing (Grossman, Tory) and even once landed between the two (Eves). The Party’s record in the last 9 elections is a dismal 2-6-1 (counting the 1985 as a shootout loss, Miller ended up with the most seats but Peterson and Rae ended up governing). This makes them the second most moribund franchise with blue and white colours in the province of Ontario – as only the Leafs are worse.
Tories are an interesting bunch. Whereas a Liberal leadership contest revolves most around the question of which leader is best suited to beat the Tories, a Tory leadership strives to answer two questions: who is best suited to beat the Liberals and are they sufficiently conservative for the Party’s base.
Answering the first question is far more important. Both Tories and Liberals have a fundamental responsibility to the unaligned voters of this province to ensure that their leaders are people of sufficient experience and judgment to serve as the second most powerful political leader in the country. Because that’s what the Premier of Ontario is – or at least ought to be.
The first question Tories ask is more important because it has to do with the personal qualities of the person they’re electing. The second question is far less important because it has to do with that person’s ability to stand up to a subjective ideological test that will vary wildly from member to member inside a Party. This forgets a rather basic fact that the average Ontario voter – also known as the people who determine the outcome of elections – is by definition less conservative than the average Party member.
This brings us finally to the current Tory leadership race. As local Tories head to the polls, they will have a choice between Christine Elliott and Patrick Brown.
Elliott has served as name and founding partner in her law firm Flaherty, Dow, Elliott, McCarthy, as a Director for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, on the international audit committee for a major financial institution and as a founder of the Abilities Centre which seeks to help children with autism. In her 9 years as an MPP, she’s led the Ontario legislature’s efforts to develop policy to help those with developmental disabilities and those with mental health issues.
Brown has served as a Barrie City Councillor and MP since 2006. In that time, he has drafted no legislation which has become law. He has been the Chair of the Conservative Party’s GTA Caucus for the last couple years. He voted against marriage equality and in favour of reopening the abortion debate when both debates came before the house.
When it comes to relevant experience to be Premier, this correspondent will allow you to evaluate the resumes for yourself.
As to the relevant issue of judgment, Elliott’s record remains largely spotless. An accomplishment for one who has been in the spotlight for twenty years both as a lawyer and politician and as spouse to former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
Brown is quite another story. In his short tenure in Ottawa, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has criticized him for using taxpayer funded mailouts to support political candidates. He has used taxpayer dollars to travel to run marathons and recently photos of him have appeared on the internet dressed as a Disney-like caricature of a Sikh for some event.
Locally, the Tory brass including our MPP, Todd Smith, MP Daryl Kramp and Bay of Quinte riding President John Bonn all seem to have sided with Elliott.
Tories, you have a choice to make when you head to the polls. You’re electing someone who could end up as the second most powerful politician in the Country. This time, how about you get it right?
Senator Alexander Campbell was campaign manager for Sir John A. Macdonald and the sixth lieutenant governor of Ontario. The actual author has asked that his name not be made public at this time and has chosen Alexander Campbell as a pseudonym in part to recognize Sir John’s 200th birthday