Saturday, April 04, 2009

ONTARIO PC LEADERSHIP RACE IS ON

Well, the NDP in Ontario has a new leader in Andrea Horwath and it is now the PCs turn to choose a leader. Their leadership race is under way with the main candidates all declaring their intentions this week.

I gotta say, I think people in the party would be much more excited about this race had the circumstances behind it been a little different. Actually, I think the party would have been much better off if the convention had been held in September or October -- just to get rid of the stench left over from what all went down with John Tory.

They're holding it in June, which I think is simply too soon after all the bad stuff that took place, with that so-so leadership review vote and then the humiliating defeat in the byelection which finally cost Tory his job. If they had held the leadership vote later this year, it would give the party time to recover from that total debacle of a byelection, and maybe then you'd get more people interested in it and looking to join the party. But no, the party brass wants the race over and done with now. Fine.

In any event, it looks like the main candidates are going to be Tim Hudak, Christine Elliott, Frank Klees and Randy Hillier. The early betting is on Hudak. He's younger than the other candidates, but he's also been around the legislature an awful long time and knows the ropes, so that helps a lot. He's seen to be conservative in the Mike Harris vein, but then you look at everyone else in this race and they are all pretty much in the same ballpark, too -- except maybe for Hillier who seems to be far out there.

I know some people are looking at Christine Elliott as being the moderate candidate, but I find that kind of funny because her husband is none other than federal finance minister Jim Flaherty. Flaherty ran the most diehard right-wing campaigns for the Ontario PC leadership ever -- and Christine Elliott was right there for both of them with her husband, giving speeches and cheering him on. (Of course he lost both those races, which ended up being the best thing that ever happened to his political career because it forced him to quit provincial politics and enter the federal arena, and as a result he became finance minister in the Harper government. )

As far as I know, Elliott's going to have the whole Flaherty team behind her again. So if Elliott really is the moderate candidate of this race, then boy oh boy, has this party ever shifted to the right in a big way.

As for the other candidates, Klees is sort of known as a bit of a rebel in the party, while Hillier is the controversial voice of rural rage. Hillier has no shot, but Klees is respected among the rank and file and might surprise some people. In any event, right now it looks like Hudak is the clear front-runner.

For those interested in this race I notice there's a website up called PerezHudak.com. It's sort of a play on PerezHilton.com, I take it, though it reads more like Wonkette. Anyway. that site has a lot of good stuff about the race. I guess www.BloggingTories.com might have some stuff too, but not everyone over there is from Ontario.

As for the convention: it will take place in Markham (north of Toronto) on June 27th, but the format is going to be a little different. Apparently, there will be no voting on the actual day of the convention -- instead, the voting takes place ahead of time on June 21st and June 25th. Well, so much for that. I guess you can forget about demonstrations or candidate speeches like at the last two Ontario PC conventions I was at, or at the last federal Conservative leadership convention I was at, too.

I suppose the party brass wants to avoid a repeat of what happened at that disorganized convention that elected Tory in 2004. I know, because I was there! That convention went only two ballots, but the actual counting of the votes went on and on and on, and it didn't get settled until about 11 pm at night. And the convention was held at a cramped hotel in the middle of nowhere in Don Valley that, among other things, ran out of food. (At least the 2002 convention, held downtown at the Toronto Convention Centre, had some good hot dogs.) About the only thing good about the 2004 convention, from my vantage point, was the fact that I was on the winning side! But that is all you could say for it.

I take it this Markham convention hall will be in a better convention hall than the last one. but still - it's another hotel. This party seems determined to take the no-frills approach to holding a convention. Well, I hope it ends up being an improvement. If this leadership convention ends up anything like the last one, people really are better off staying home. My two cents.

I imagine I will rant some more about the race as time goes on, even though I don't live in Ontario any more. After all, I do have some personal experience to draw upon with these things.

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