Ontario PCs release new attack ad against Kathleen Wynne

Tim Hudak’s PC Party has released their first ad attacking the newly minted Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne.

Predictably, her “Dalton, Dalton” cheering during her victory was used by the PCs to link the old with the new as more of the same. McGuinty has been a polarizing figure in Ontario and with an imminent election, the Tories will be looking to make the ballot question one of McGuinty’s legacy in Ontario.

The Tories have chosen to highlight debt as the first criticism of Wynne. They go back to Wynne’s days as a school board trustee and her record as a fiscal manager there and state that Wynne would not aim to balance Ontario’s books for five years.

This won’t be the last we’ll see on the Tory full-court press, however. The gas-plant and ORNGE helicopter scandals are still fresh in the minds of Ontarians.

Tim Hudak comes by the office

Our office in downtown Ottawa today hosted potential Ontario PC leadership candidate Tim Hudak for a meet and greet with friends and colleagues on Parliament Hill today. Many thanks to Dimitri Pantazopoulos and Phil von Finkenstein for coordinating and to Chris Froggatt for tieing it all together.

Hudak spoke about returning Ontario to a clear sense of conservatism and will be attending the Manning Centre conference this weekend.

On the developing news front, I’ve learned that Hudak is receiving the endorsement of Rob Nicholson, the federal minister of Justice. Does Froggatt’s involvement with today’s event mean that endorsement from his boss John Baird will follow?

The Manning Centre is hosting a reception tonight prior to our conference and I can confirm that Tim Hudak, Christine Elliott, Randy Hillier and Peter van Loan will be in attendence. The Manning Centre conference will be the first significant venue for leadership pre-campaigning.

Who is considering a run at the Ontario PC leadership?

I’ve been hitting the phone, email and blackberry PIN asking known PC organizers, student leaders and strategists who’s been calling them “testing the waters”. I’ve learned that there are at least seven people considering a bid for the Ontario PC leadership to succeed John Tory. Here they are:

Tim Hudak: The perceived front-runner for the PC leadership is backed by a number of student/youth leaders, much of the party executive but has shallow support in caucus. Hudak’s people are pushing for an early leadership election (June) in order to deprive oxygen from other rivals who are trying to catch up. Hudak has been billed as a “true-blue conservative” by many of his supporters.

Christine Elliott: MPP from Whitby-Oshawa, lawyer and wife of Canada’s federal Conservative finance minister, Jim Flaherty. Flaherty ran for the PC leadership against John Tory and the organization and team may fall into place should Elliott contest the leadership.

Frank Klees: Among Hudak and Elliott, Klees rounds out the top three frontrunners who are making active and concerted pitchs to potential supporters to form a team for the 2009 leadership race. Klees ran against Tory for leadership in 2004 and served as a cabinet minister under Premier Harris.

Randy Hillier: Hillier is the former president of the Lanark Landowners Association and has represented a defiant conservative streak during his time in the Ontario legislature. The most conservative among the lot, many see a bid by Hillier as principled yet politically untenable. According to my sources, Hillier has been pushing for a later leadership election.

Peter Shurman: One of the only gains during the last election for the Ontario PC, Shurman is the MPP for Thornhill. A former broadcaster and businessman, Shurman has the profile and resources for a serious bid though my sources say that he is testing the waters carefully at this time. (update: Shurman’s out, but was considering this possibility)

Peter van Loan: Yes, the Conservative federal minister for Public Safety is said to be “leaving the door” open for a potential run at the provincial party leadership. PVL is the former president of the PC Party of Ontario, former government House leader for the Conservative government and, in his previous private sector life, he was a successful lawyer in Toronto. Van Loan is a “no guff” style administrator and would likely bring order to a divisive caucus that churned under Tory.

Dean Del Mastro: Del Mastro is the federal Conservative MP from Peterborough and has served in the House of Commons since 2006. Mr. Del Mastro is also allowing talk to circulate about a potential leadership shot to make a bid for the Premier’s office in the next Ontario election. Del Mastro plays the wouded partisan role well and this may be the contrast to John Tory’s approach that Ontario PC partisans are seeking. Del Mastro has been a visible member of the CPC caucus and has done a good job to raise his media profile in the short time he’s been in Parliament. (update: Del Mastro has ruled out a run at leadership but confirmed that he was approached to run the day of John Tory’s resignation)

UPDATE: Shurman says he’s out, Elizabeth Witmer says she’s considering a run.

Ontario PC Leadership race details

I’m receiving word from senior sources who are discussing the future of the Ontario PC Party right now. At the moment, leader John Tory is in a caucus meeting now discussing what he’ll be talking about at his presser at 2pm.

The party is pushing for a leadership election to occur the second weekend of September (see update). The thinking is that this best time that won’t interfere with a potential federal election.

There’s a special executive meeting to be held on Monday to discuss process and to have an interim leader in place by the end of March.

UPDATE: Now I’m hearing that June is a possible for the leadership election. We’ll know more details on Monday. June sounds a bit early for the number of candidates that are thinking of entering and there is no sense of urgency for June.

The morning after for John Tory

Now that the sun has come up on a new day at Queen’s Park, many are taking stock of last night’s PC loss Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock by-election. There are a few truths that need to be said as well.

I sincerely believe that the PC Party will now be better equipped to fight an election against Dalton McGuinty than it would have been under Tory. A leadership process will bring out policy debate, will highlight personalities and will give Ontario a fresh face for the next election.

As for John Tory, obligatory nice guy references aside, the guy was not a conservative’s Conservative. In fact, at the recent PC policy convention I quickly identified Tory’s base of support within the room as it voted on policy. I came to realize that an easy crib sheet for voting became to vote in the opposite way of these folks. When John Tory announces that he’ll step aside later today, the party will begin the process of voting for a leader that will excite conservatives. Though it was a by-election, 10,000 PC voters stayed home last night and you know you have a problem when its the electorate that informs the party that it is not conservative enough. In politics (and more often Liberal politics) lack of ideological purity can be forgiven if your leader has a sharp political instinct. John Tory was weak on both.

In politics, as in life, one should focus upon areas where one excels. John Tory excels at a number things, but I don’t believe this pursuit is one where his efforts and skill will be most appreciated.

John Tory loses by-election, expected to resign as party leader

Earlier tonight, as the polls came in, it became clearer and clearer that PC Party of Ontario leader John Tory would lose his last chance at challenging Dalton McGuinty for the Premier’s office.  By the time the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock by-election was called by the Canadian Press at about 10:30pm, Tory’s margin of loss represented a 9% point drop from former PC MPP Laurie Scott’s electoral footing.  Scott beat her opponent by 20% during the last provincial election.

Tory has scheduled a press conference for Friday and many expect the embattled leader to resign.  Having faced a humiliating loss in the previous provincial election after championing a policy on religious school choice and polarizing the party after a divisive leadership review, it is unknown how the former CEO of Rogers and commissioner of the CFL expects to quarterback his team after this evening’s loss of what was considered a “safe seat”.  Tory did hint to reporters tonight – and I’m paraphrasing – that his future ‘may not be in public life’.

From reports on the ground, party workers were not expecting this loss though some cite the typical organizational campaign and e-day deficiencies.  I have it on good authority that the PCs did not do any internal polling in the riding for this contest. (I have it on better authority that polling was done and 10 days prior to e-day and it showed Tory trailing by 5 points).

As a leader, John Tory retired the debt of the PC Party bringing the party’s fiscal position back into the black.  The party will hopefully continue to benefit from his strengths as a fundraiser.  Many have described Tory as a good man, though not the right man.  Despite his shortcomings tonight, public service is a sacrifice to one’s family life and career and I know that Conservatives, myself included, are thankful for his tireless contributions.  From my personal experience, I’ve known Tory to be a dedicated, passionate and faithful activist for Canadian Conservatives.  I know that he’ll continue to be committed to advancing our parties both provincially and federally.

Names of potential candidates to replace Tory as leader of the PCPO that are being pushed around tonight include Christine Elliot, John Yakabuski, Randy Hillier, Peter Shurman and Tim Hudak.  It is expected that many will step forward as there were many known to be waiting in the wings prior to the previous leadership review.

An interesting and chaotic era in provincial Conservative politics begins tomorrow.  Rebuilding starts in the morning.

FLASHBACK: Five years ago this month, I met John Tory as he went on a provincial listening tour before contesting the provincial PC leadership.

John Tory live interview

John Tory, the leader of the PC Party of Ontario will participate in a live video townhall right here on this blog at 4pm EST on Friday August 15th.

A few weeks ago, I held a similar townhall with Preston Manning. You can see the the product of that here.

Please login to this site at 4pm and I will pass on your great questions from the chat window provided. The floor is open, so ask Tory your questions on topics ranging from the McGuinty government to conservatism in Ontario to the next election.

UPDATE: We’re live!

UPDATE: I think that went well. We had to redial mid-chat but here are the results of this blog’s second townhall. Thanks to John Tory. The picture is a bit choppy for the first 8 minutes but after the break the video is of good quality.

Ontario PC Policy convention

I hear that the Ontario PC policy convention this weekend was quite busy. While Ontario Tory policy was discussed, the convention provided a showcase for the three candidates vying for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. Tony Clement, Belinda Stronach and Stephen Harper all put on hospitality suites to woo the attending members of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

Some putative policies were underlined by the three leadership hopefuls. Tony Clement declared that he believes that capital punishment should be an option for extreme cases.

“My personal view is that in the case of serial killers and murderers of police officers, for instance, that it would be appropriate in those circumstances”. — Tony Clement

On the same issue, Belinda Stronach declared “I’m against the death penalty”.

Furthermore, the 37 year-old mother of two voiced her concern that women are underrepresented in parliament. Stronach explained that women make-up only 20% of the federal legislature. Meanwhile she criticized the media for their focus on image. While the media’s focus doesn’t bother her, she worried that it may discourage other women from running for office.

“It should be about the ideas, not necessarily about the shoes you’re wearing. We should reflect on how other young women would feel about the focus on the clothes and the shoes” — Belinda Stronach

Stephen Harper, Belinda Stronach and Tony Clement were all active friday night as they hosted party members, yet Harper did not campaign on Saturday at the convention.