Sunday Bloody Sunday with the Ontario Progressive Conservatives

Jan 29th, 2018 | By | Category: In Brief

Doug Ford and friendly supporter, back when it was still warm ...

GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MONDAY, JANUARY 29, 2018. 5 PM ET. [UPDATED JAN 30]. It may still be, as some wise observers have suggested, that the Ontario Progressive Conservatives – now disentangled from the wobbly leadership of Patrick Brown – will go on to handily win a majority government in the June 7 provincial election.

(As some opinion polls have been predicting for quite a while now, more or less.)

At the same time, contemplating what has happened this past weekend to the political organization that once ruled Ontario for 42 uninterrupted years (1943—1985), it is also possible to envision various quite different scenarios.

When even one of the new leadership candidates declares he is “deeply troubled by what I have seen recently unfolding within the PC Party … as it falls into complete disarray,” even objective observers start to wonder?  (Especially if that candidate is Doug Ford.)

Former Ontario PC party president Rick Dykstra, back when he was federal MP for the St. Catharines area.

As just the leading case in point, eg, now on the Monday morning after the Toronto Star is telling us that while Doug Ford “plans to hold a rally Saturday night at the Toronto Congress Centre, it remains to be seen whether there will actually be a Conservative leadership contest.”

The report goes on : “Sources told the Star that the party executive will be meeting again this week amid a push for some sober second thought on the wisdom of holding a leadership race with a provincial election set for June 7 and the party in disarray.” [UPDATE JAN 30, 11 PM : The Toronto Star is most recently reporting :  “It is now a virtual certainty that a leadership election will be held before March 24 and as early as March 10.”]

The Ontario PC disarray no doubt began innocently enough (wink, wink – and almost as what seemed to be a clever internal plot?) with the reluctant resignation of party leader Patrick Brown himself in the middle of last week, “after CTV revealed alleged sexual impropriety.”

The trouble deepened profoundly when party president Rick Dykstra “resigned suddenly Sunday evening” over similar allegations of improper behaviour, about to be published by Maclean’s.

[UPDATE JAN 30, 12 Noon : Vic Fedeli “says he will no longer seek permanent leadership of the Ontario PC Party.” !!!!]

* * * *

Vic Fedeli was “shocked and disgusted’ to learn about the allegations against Rick Dykstra. Photo : Richard Lautens, Toronto Star.

As Robert Benzie and Robert Ferguson at the Toronto Star go on to explain : “Dykstra’s departure was part of a bloody Sunday for the PCs in the wake of Brown’s resignation.”

Vic Fedeli, unanimously elected interim leader by the 28 MPPs in the PC caucus at Queen’s Park on Friday, also “parted ways with controversial party executive director Bob Stanley, retired MPP and Brown advisor Garfield Dunlop and Tamara Macgregor, Brown’s deputy chief for policy and legislative affairs.”

Meanwhile, Benzie and Ferguson continue : “Conservative MPP Randy Hillier … has apologized to Goldie Ghamari, now the PC candidate for the riding of Carleton, who took to Twitter on Sunday with accusations of intimidation against an unnamed MPP.”

Meanwhile again, two particular former PC staffers who resigned when Patrick Brown first refused to take their advice and resign himself, on Wednesday evening, have returned to Vic Fedeli’s new regime (as an interim leader who may or may not lead the party in the June 7 election campaign). [UPDATE JAN 30: Mr. Fedeli has now announced that he is no longer a candidate for permanent leader. Over the next few months he will concentrate on repairing the PC party’s current disarray.]

One formerly resigning staffer is Nicholas Bergamini, who “has returned as the new director of communications.” The other is Brown’s former and Fedeli’s new Chief of Staff Alykhan Velshi.

Alykhan Velshi, at a more relaxed moment in Ottawa.

One thing all this turmoil might do over the next while is bring some of the important PC staff people into clearer focus for we mere voters, who only know what we read in the papers (or see on TV or hear on the radio or come across on one or another branch of the new “social media”).

Fairly or otherwise, for instance, the Wikpiedia article on Alykhan Velshi paints a picture of a  more right-wing conservative ideologue than someone who would be seriously comfortable with the ostensible centre-left leanings of Patrick Brown’s “People’s Guarantee” platform.

(On the other hand, the article also notes that Alykhan Velshi “is a distant relative of financial analyst Ali Velsh” who currently stars on the centre-left MSNBC TV channel in the USA – “and former Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament Murad Velshi” in Ontario.)

The current clash between right-wing Ontario PC MPP Randy Hillier and “Goldie Ghamari, now the PC candidate for the riding of Carleton” similarly draws attention to the ancient PC internal conflict between progressive Red Tories and conservative Common Sense Revolutionaries.

Goldie Ghamari (r) with Stittsville Councillor Shad Qadri, Canada Day 2016.

See on this front, eg, an article from Ezra Levant’s Rebel website this past summer : “Persian Cat” or Liberal rat? Carleton PC candidate is a Harper-hating SJW … The infiltration of non-conservatives into the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario continues unabated. It’s hard to come to a different conclusion after reviewing the curious case of Goldie Ghamari, PC candidate for the new riding of Carleton.”

(The new riding of Carleton is also a place where such PC party members as Marg Mountain have complained that Goldie Ghamari was parachuted into the PC candidacy by Patrick Brown, against the wishes of almost “half of the members” who “were denied their vote. Democracy is dead in the Carleton PC party.”)

And then, to underline all such problems, as it were, on the CBC website the always interesting Éric Grenier has just posted a piece headlined “Ontario PCs have had last-minute leaders before and it didn’t go so well … Historical record federally and in Ontario has not been kind to leaders installed so close to an election.”

“Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington MPP Randy Hillier addresses his provincial riding association's annual general meeting at the Civitan Club hall in Perth on Valentine's Day, 2015 – Desmond Devoy/Metroland.”

This also helps explain why “the party executive will be meeting again this week amid a push for some sober second thought on the wisdom of holding a leadership race with a provincial election set for June 7 and the party in disarray.”

Someone better decide soon just what it is the Ontario PC s are really going to do for a leader, now that they have so cleverly divested themselves of Patrick Brown. As yet, at any rate, it is still not exactly written on the wind that they are going to win on June 7 big time.

It is now more than three decades since Frank Miller let the old PC dynasty slip from his hands and into the long-waiting arms of the David Peterson-Bob Rae Liberal-NDP Accord of 1985—1987. And the Mike Harris-Ernie Eves aggressively right-wing Conservative governments of 1995—2003 are still not remembered fondly by many Ontario voters.

Randall White is a former senior policy advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Finance, and a former economist with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He is the author of Ontario 1610-1985: A Political and Economic History and Ontario Since 1985. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Toronto, and he also contributes to the website Ontario News Watch. For earlier background on this issue see his initial report: “Who will benefit most from Patrick Brown’s sudden downfall as Ontario Progressive Conservative leader?”

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