Tory gets 66.87%

In London, where provincial Progressive Conservatives gathered this weekend, John Tory’s future as their leader seems uncertain. Tory faced a vote of confidence today on his leadership as approximately 1000 delegates voted on a question on whether the party ought to have a leadership review. Taking personal blame for the party’s electoral loss last fall in a pre-vote speech, Tory also warned delegates that a such a review process would take precious time out of preparations for the next campaign, in 2011.

Prior to the vote, delegates experienced some olde-tyme convention tactics as 81 pro-review (anti-Tory) delegates were challenged due to their residency status within their representative ridings. Tory claimed no prior knowledge to the challenges but expressed that some of his delegates faced the same.

After the votes were finally counted, Tory could only muster 66.87%. The number is technically a victory for Tory, but in reality shows that there is not enough support for the man who ran on leadership during the last election. In a previous conservative leadership review vote, former Prime Minister Joe Clark bested Tory’s number by less than one percent at 66.9% yet stepped down as leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives.

Pro-review forces initially had set the bar high for Tory at 80% declaring that “80% minus 1″ would be enough to cause a review. Tory never took the bait to declare the threshold that he would need, rather simply citing through supporters that the party constitution simply requires a majority of support at 50% plus one. Media observers including the Sun’s Christina Blizzard set a realistic threshold at 70-75%.

After receiving the verdict, Tory expressed that he would take some time to think about his future in the party given the support given at this weekend’s convention. It would be divisive for John Tory to accept a technical victory on these numbers and he should resign as the leader of the party. In my opinion the party needs a bold vision and platform to offer Ontario in a future election. Dalton McGuinty’s government has not been plagued by scandal to the extent that it has registered on the minds of the passive political observer. Therefore, running as a “nice guy” with no groundwork established on policy prior to an election will result in the same. If John Tory can learn this lesson from the last election and learns that his party yearns for change, he will have the opportunity to prove it; Tory can run for leader. But to succeed, he must show that he will offer a bold vision. Others too will be able to offer their views on the course that should be taken by the PC Party. The party will be able to spend some true time in the wilderness and if Tory and a new field of competitors face a true trial by fire, the victor can forge new and competitive policy in order to offer Ontario a viable Progressive Conservative government.

80 minus One

I’ve heard word tonight that those who are seeking to review John Tory’s leadership at the 2008 AGM, are setting the bar for that vote.

80% is the amount of support that that members of the ad hoc “yes” campaign have set for Tory for the vote at the February meeting.

UPDATE: Here is the Press Release

80 Minus One

December 12, 2007 – Windsor, On – Nick Kouvalis, owner of the DraftALeader.com website announced today the launch of a new campaign – 80 Minus One. The upcoming Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario Leadership Review represents the will of the party. In order to effectively lead that party for the next four years and ultimately into the next election, John Tory must carry the vast majority of delegates at the convention.

Previous leadership races have set the bar high:

Ralph Klien: 55% – resigned
Joe Clark: 66.9% – leadership race
Dalton McGuinty: 81% – elected Premier
Stephen Harper: 84% – elected Prime Minister

“John Tory was recently quoted in a CBC Windsor story as claiming to command the support of a “vast majority” of the party” said Kouvalis. “We agree. To effectively lead this party forward, a significant majority is required”

“John Tory is in Ottawa today campaigning for votes from Ontario MP’s, who are ex-officio delegates to our convention.” Kouvalis stated “We want to ensure that MPs know the grassroots of this party have a voice and opinion on this issue.”

Visit DraftALeader.com to view or download the “80 Minus One” campaign video.

For more information contact:

Nick Kouvalis, Campaign Chair
DraftALeader.com
519-791-9663
nick@draftaleader.com

UPDATE: Here’s the video referenced in the press release:

RELATED: My interview with Nick Kouvalis.
My interview with John Capobianco.

Tory ouster? Capobianco responds

John Tory is in Ottawa tomorrow to meet with members of the Ontario CPC caucus and key federal Conservative strategists. Of course, the PCPO leader comes to the nation’s capital under the cloud of a challenge of a possible leadership review being organized by conservative strategist Nick Kouvlalis, who is leading the charge for a review with his “yes” campaign. The leader of the “no” (to review) campaign is John Capobianco, a long-time conservative organizer in his own right. After interviewing Kouvalis on his efforts last week, I immediately sought to ask Capobianco a set of questions about the possible leadership review and his team’s efforts to shield Tory and promote him as a strong leader for the party membership.

Much is being made of Tory’s tour to connect with the membership for feedback and for a post-mortem to the election loss. Critics on both sides of the debate argue about the merits of how these consultations are being held. Tory’s people would seem to claim that these consultations show a grassroots effort to consult the membership, while the “yes” campaign suggests that the consultations are framed by Tory and show little accountability. Capobianco seems to counter the self-proclaimed label of “grassroots” by the “yes” campaign by suggesting that the campaign is being organized by a handful of senior conservatives.

First shot fired in battle over Tory’s future

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.

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.