Next year, in February, Ontario provincial conservatives will converge on London for their annual general meeting. Ontario PC leader John Tory is sure to face pressure before that time from Ontario Tories regarding his leadership after a poor showing during the last General Election.
Today, a press release landed in my inbox from “DraftALeader.com”, a website “with the goal of giving a voice back to the grassroots of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario”. The man behind the effort is conservative Nick Kouvalis, a campaign manager from Windsor Ontario. He writes, “It’s all about accountability and John Tory’s leadership of the Party. He made the last campaign all about leadership. The people of Ontario had their say in a vote, now it’s time for the membership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. I recently attended a campaign debrief put on by John Tory to explain the dismal performance of the PCPO in the last election” said Kouvalis. “Obviously there are many people who have serious concerns about that campaign. These issues all come back to ‘Leadership’ and that is why we are here today.”
Kouvalis is calling for Ontario PC members to vote “yes” to a leadership review.
I contacted Kouvalis for an interview via email.
ST.ca: “Mr. Kouvalis, the purpose of your website is to ask the grassroots to vote yes to a review of John Tory as the leader of the PC Party of Ontario. Why do you believe this is necessary now?”
NK: I can tell you that from the response we received on DAY 1, this party is strong, very fiesty, and it wants to be heard! I did not ever anticipate such a tremendous turnout of support in less than 24 hours of launching this campaign. I am simply shocked at the level of traffic, emails, donations and overall support we have already received.
The grassroots of this party must have a voice in this very important debate. AGM’s and Delegate Selection Meetings are quickly being organized with no information being provided on the party website as to the timings and other details. The average supporter, member, donor, and volunteer need to know these details.
The purpose of the site is to give the membership a voice, a platform that is on equal footing with the “messages” coming from the “No” camp.
I do not believe that accountability will ever be achieved without a leadership race, where the shareholders of this party have an opportunity to know what really happened, who was responsible, why certain decisions were made and why others were continually put off.
When should the membership stand up and take ownership of “their party”? Now is the time to organize to bring accountability back to this party.
My role is to ensure that the membership is aware of meetings, aware of deadlines, understands that many things were way out of place in this campaign and it was not one issue that cost us this election. At the end of the day it will be up to the members of this party to encourage potential candidates to step up and step out, I am here to ensure that their voice is heard.
Our strength is in our people, in our message and in our numbers.
ST.ca: “Since you are launching a campaign to review Tory’s leadership, you are presumably against Tory’s direction of this party. Why is that?”
NK: It would not be fair for me to speak on behalf of the grassroots with respect to the direction that John Tory has taken this party in. That is a question for the membership at large to answer.
Personally, I feel that when you ignore the people with respect to policy development, when you ignore the backbone of this party – board members of riding associations, volunteers and donors, when you surround yourself with “yes” men, when you build the entire PC brand, policy and image of the Party around one man, when you ignore decisions of the elected executive, and then make the campaign about Leadership – then that Leader alone, must be accountable to the membership.
Many of us believe that John Tory is a good man. Many of us believe that John Tory has exceptional skills. That does not mean that John Tory is the right Leader for this party. Leadership Matters……it Matters Big Time. If John Tory cannot command the loyalty of a significant majority of this party, then he cannot lead us.
My role is to ensure that the membership is heard loud and clear. My role is to ensure that information regarding Delegate Selection Meetings reaches the grassroots in time that each slate of Delegates that arrives in February actually represents the membership at large.
ST.ca: “Doesn’t Tory deserve an opportunity an another election? One failed election has rarely been justification for an immediate ouster of a party’s leader.”
NK: Frank Miller, Larry Grossman and Ernie Eves.
John Tory�s fate ultimately must be decided by the membership.
People in Ontario had numerous reasons NOT to vote for Dalton McGuinty but this Leader and his Team gave Ontarians a reason NOT to vote Progressive Conservative.
Of course, we can infer that what Kouvalis and his co-travelers are doing is securing delegate spots at the upcoming convention in order to vote “yes” to a question of whether or not the PC Party of Ontario should review the leadership of John Tory and we can infer that Kouvalis intends to hasten Tory’s retirement. Of course, all Tories believe in taking the pulse of congregating delegates on this question (for lack of a better system. *cough* One member, one vote *cough*), but critics would say that Kouvalis’ strategy here is to bring his agenda to the meeting.
So far, at Kouvalis’ website, he has Elizabeth Witmer, Tim Hudak, Christine Elliot, and Frank Klees under “pick a leader”. It is unclear as to whether these Ontario conservatives endorse Kouvalis’ efforts or whether they have simply been selected as potential future candidates for leadership. Noticeably absent in the list is John Tory, which further indicates what may be the real intent of the site. Hudak and Klees have been rumoured to covet the top job.
Of course, as a number of PC Tories were upset by the electoral defeat a couple of months ago, the unveiling of such a site was only a matter of time. And, of course, the first move was theirs to make.
I have contacted John Capobianco, the “point person” of the “No” campaign of the leadership review. Answers to questions that I will pose to him will of course receive equal time here.