I often said I’d run for public office before turning 30. I’ve come close to declaring my intentions as a federal, provincial and municipal candidate.
Yet, after observing the Ontario PC party tsunami, I don’t even slightly regret being 17 years late in fulfilling this commitment. In fact, I fully intend to add a few more numbers to this tally!
From the moment Patrick Brown stepped down as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario on Jan. 25 due to allegations of sexual misconduct, this has been one of most insane roller-coaster rides ever taken by a political party. (In a democracy, anyway.) It’s been three straight weeks of highs, lows, controversies, scandals, ejections, lawsuits and backstabbing from every possible direction.
Other than rape, murder and/or pillaging, what’s left?
The leadership race has been intriguing, too. Former PC MPP Christine Elliott, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, venture fund manager Caroline Mulroney and Parents As First Educators president Tanya Granic Allen have all thrown their hats in the ring. Brown, who has been rebuilding his reputation as the original CTV interview involving his two accusers has been collapsing at the seams, unexpectedly joined them on the last day to submit nomination papers.
What does all this mean?
A recent non-scientific Toronto Star poll of about 7,000 respondents reportedly showed Brown at 32.25 per cent, followed by Elliott (28.48 per cent), Granic Allen (16.48 per cent), Mulroney (13.6 per cent) and Ford (9.19 per cent). The numbers don’t seem logical, as Ford and Mulroney have led comfortably in other early polls. The newspaper is also fiercely opposed to Canadian conservatism and would only appeal to red Tories. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting snapshot.
No matter who becomes the next PC leader on March 10, they will have the unenviable task of knitting together the party’s deeply fractured membership.
There are PCs who are furious that Brown was accused of sexual misconduct. There are PCs who believe this allegation and others who don’t. There are PCs who are fuming that he re-entered this race and others who feel he deserves to lead them into the June provincial election.
There are PCs who believe Elliott is experienced and others who feel she’s running a dismal leadership campaign for the third consecutive time.
There are PCs who believe Ford is exactly what the party and province needs in a leader, and others who feel that he’ll create a circus and guarantee victory for Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.
There are PCs who are pleased that Granic Allen represents social conservative values and others who feel she’s a one-issue candidate who serves no purpose.
And there are PCs who believe Mulroney is a breath of fresh air in Ontario politics and others who believe her political inexperience makes her a weak candidate.
The usual coalescing around the winning leadership candidate is, therefore, extremely unlikely. A significant amount of political blood will remain on the floor, and it may require some serious wheeling and dealing to properly clean it up.
Here’s the real irony: In spite of this tsunami, the PCs could still win the election due to Wynne’s record-breaking level of unpopularity.
A Feb. 12 Campaign Research survey of 1,426 online Ontario respondents found that an Elliott-led PC party would win 46 per cent support, ahead of the NDP and the Liberals. If Mulroney led the party, she would draw 41 per cent, again ahead of the NDP and the Liberals. A Ford-led party would draw 39 per cent support, once more in first place. Wynne would finish in third place behind Elliott or Mulroney, and behind the NDP’s Andrea Horwath, and Wynne would be tied at 24 per cent support with Horwath against Ford. (Granic Allen and Brown hadn’t declared when the survey was conducted.)
What a strange time to be a voter in Ontario. It makes you pine for the quieter, gentler days of the late Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
Yeah, I went there.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.