It was exciting. It was close. And now that the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s leadership convention is over, the party should be coming together in an effort to defeat Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne in a provincial election June 7.
But the PC Party is not coming together. It’s coming apart. And there’s only one person to blame for that. Leadership candidate Christine Elliott is refusing to concede defeat to the new leader Doug Ford.
In a statement following the results, Elliott claims to have won the popular vote and won the majority of ridings, with “fewer than 150 points difference” between herself and Ford in the final count. She also claims that thousands of party members were assigned to incorrect ridings.
“Our scrutineers identified entire towns voting in the wrong riding,” Elliott said in the statement. “In a race this close, largely determined by geography, someone needs to stand up for these members.”
There’s no disputing this process to elect a new PC leader was chaotic. There were plenty of mistakes made. But to throw the whole party into disarray is not the way to fix it. The way to fix it is to sit down with party officials and come up with a better way to conduct the convention next time around.
The provincial election is less than three months away. This is no time for Elliott to be tearing down her own party for her own selfish goal. And what happens if the party goes through another month of bickering before Elliott is satisfied? That’s another month less to prepare for an election.
Ford has already thrown out the olive branch for Elliott to join his party’s efforts to defeat Wynne. He has said publicly he wants Elliott on his side.
“I appreciate her thoughts,” Ford said. “I look forward to her being a part of our team. She’ll play an instrumental role. We want to make sure together we’re going to defeat Kathleen Wynne and bring prosperity back to the province.”
The two leadership candidates are together on one thing. They want the PC leadership process changed.
In her statement, Elliott said thousands of PC members were assigned to incorrect ridings and that she won the popular vote.
“I will stand up for these members and plan to investigate the extent of this discrepancy,” she said.
Last week, Ford said he would support a review of the “scandalous” PC leadership process.
“Even if I win I’m going to say this is ridiculous,” he said before the vote. “We’ve got to do a complete review of the party. We’ve got to find out when things were mailed out, all the people who weren’t allowed to vote. Win or lose, they’ve got to investigate this. If they want to drag it out for another week, I’m all in favour of it.”
But even another week of wrangling wouldn’t have solved this problem. And a delay of another week would have only meant one less week to mount an opposition to Wynne in the provincial election. And this should be a team effort – a Conservative Party team effort – to take back the government.
The Liberals are running about an $8-billion deficit, even though they promised to balance the books.
“Until this week, you’d have thought the Liberals would stick to a balanced budget and leave their big promises unfunded or, to use a Kathleen Wynne-ism, ‘waiting for a federal partner,” writes John Michael McGrath of TVO. “After all, less than a year ago, the finance minister himself said that was the plan: the 2017 budget saw the Liberals finally drag the province’s books back into balance, and Charles Sousa told the legislature that “the next year, and the year after, we’re projecting it will be balanced too.
“Sousa had spent years on this — surely he wasn’t going to throw away all that work?,” McGrath went on. “It turns out he was. On Wednesday, Sousa told a crowd at the Economic Club of Canada, in downtown Toronto, that in the budget coming March 28, the government will run a deficit of no more than one per cent of Ontario’s GDP — about $8 billion.”
Deficits seem to be the norm these days. The public debt (across all provincial and federal governments) now stands at $1.2 trillion.
The Conservative provincial and federal parties have promised to work to change all that. But we’re all still waiting for that to happen. Maybe, it’s time for all provincial politicians to put aside their differences and come together to find ways to erase the debt and get the province moving in the right direction again. It seems right now, the Ontario and federal governments both have their signals crossed.
Jeff Wilkinson is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.