Internal memos reveal leadership campaign message tracks

I received this internal memo from a source close to the Hudak campaign,

and this internal memo from within the Christine Elliott campaign,

Meanwhile, a source from the Frank Klees campaign boasts that their membership numbers have surpassed 10,000.

Ontario PC Membership Numbers

Membership sales for voting eligability for the Ontario PC leadership race closed last night and there have been reports and boasts from various campaigns as to their numbers. A source close to the party called me tonight and passed on the following information.

Before the leadership race began, party membership stood at 8,500 members. Through the PC Party website and through late submissions from riding associations who have re-sync’d their numbers with the central party office, that number has risen to 15,000. These new memberships are not attributed to any campaign.

The surprise news is that Frank Klees sold the most memberships compared to the other candidates, according to my source. Klees has reportedly sold about 9,000 new memberships for the party. Upon further analysis, this may not be so surprising as Klees sold more memberships in the 2004 contest as than anyone did in this one; Klees has the benefit of old lists of supporters that he could call upon. Thus, the quality of the memberships is a bit suspect and it is unknown as to whether he’ll be able to get these members out to vote. Klees’ membership numbers are concentrated in York and Peel regions.

Christine Elliott apparently is in second place with about 8,000 new memberships sold. Elliott’s membership base is fairly spread out but has high concentration in Toronto, 905, Windsor and some in SW Ontario. Elliott’s campaign is reportedly dead in the Niagara region.

Tim Hudak, of course, is very strong in the Niagara region. Further, his numbers show strength in Hamilton and fairly strong in Peel region. Hudak comes in at just under 7,000, according to my source.

Randy Hillier rounds out the pack with about 3,100 memberships sold. No surprise, Hillier is strong in eastern Ontario but is quite weak in the other regions.

Do these numbers give us any insight as to who might win this? In my opinion, not too much. 6,500 memberships were sold through the party website and I know some campaigns, such as the Hudak campaign have aggressively sold online and via the party site. On the other hand, I’ve heard that the Elliott campaign has polled well among the already established 8,500 members.

I think that we can make a few conclusions:
– there are no hard conclusions except to say this may be anyone’s race except for Hillier
– Klees may surprise, but only if his numbers are firm. He may also take a chunk of the established membership base.
– Hudak’s sales underwhelm, but barely. CP ran a story last night detailing weak fundraising totals (behind 10:1 vs. Elliott). But in the end, members voting will win this. If the party’s 6,500 non-attributed members break Hudak, he may still be strong. Yet, despite this we cannot and should not conclude that Hudak is the perceived front-runner even though he’s worn this title up until now.
– Elliott is within striking distance. If her numbers are indeed spread out as they are, she may be able to deliver under the party’s 100 point per riding system.
– Hudak and Elliott will do their best to appeal to Hillier support. Elliott’s flat tax proposal and Hudak’s HRC triangulation are obvious overtures to Hillier’s base. We will likely see more though I think it will be Elliott that sides against the bears. Hudak, however, has opportunity elsewhere in Hillier’s platform.
– Klees’ strategy will centre around raising money to deliver votes, and running on experience. If Klees projects as Premier, he may become this province’s next head of government. Those that have written Klees off early will be taking another look given these numbers.

Christine Elliott on fiscal policy

I had the opportunity to chat with Ontario PC leadership candidate Christine Elliott about the fiscal policy that’s earned her a few headlines over the past two weeks. Specifically, I asked about EI and her flat tax proposal. If the other candidates want to chat about specific policies they’ve outlined recently now that membership sales have cut off, please send me an email and we’ll set something up.

Related: Tim Hudak interview, Christine Elliott interview (different one), Frank Klees interview, Randy Hillier interview

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.