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.