Where is the stranger and stranger Ontario PC leadership race of 2018 going?

Feb 18th, 2018 | By Randall White | Category: In Brief

l to r : Tanya Allen, Christine Elliott, Doug Ford, Caroline Mulroney at first Ontario PC leadership debate in Toronto.

TORONTO, ON. SUN 18 FEB 2018. 3 AM ET. [UPDATED 11:00 AM, 8:00 PM, MON 19 FEB, 1 PM, WED 21 FEB, 12:45 PM, 5 PM]. I am now back one week from the brief winter holiday in the sun alluded to in “I remember the crisis in Ontario politics while escaping ‘Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver’” (01 Feb 18).

The latest flood of fresh, crazy events in the crisis urges me to jot down a quick-and-dirty update on my own bemused (mis?)-understanding of just what is going on in the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race of 2018.

I don’t actually have much to say right now — beyond the usually wise thought that it makes most sense not to jump too quickly to any conclusions about anything.

One theoretically key question was tweeted yesterday by Steve Pailkin : “I’m hearing the @OntarioPCParty provincial nominations committee will meet at 4 pm today to consider @brownbarrie’s leadership bid. A decision today unlikely … 3:49 PM – 17 Feb 2018.”

An earlier CBC report had already explained that “Brown is listed as a ‘leadership contestant’ on the Elections Ontario website, but to run, he will also need to be approved by a party committee … Insiders tell CBC News it’s unlikely the committee will reject Brown’s candidacy.”

If this is true, the sudden surprise race to succeed Patrick Brown as Ontario PC leader now definitely includes Tanya Allen, Christine Elliott, Doug Ford, Caroline Mulroney — and Patrick Brown!

Steve Paikin has also tweeted a “not scientific but maybe of interest: @TorontoStar’s @OntarioPCParty poll: Who should be the next leader?,” as of not quite 3:30 yesterday afternoon : Patrick Brown  32.25% ; Christine Elliott  28.48% ; Tanya Allen 16.48% ; Caroline Mulroney  13.6% ; and Doug Ford  9.19%, with “almost 7000 votes cast.”

(Of course readers of the Toronto Star are more likely to be Liberals or New Democrats than even Progressive Conservatives … but, as Mr. Paikin says, the poll is “maybe of interest.”)

A few final striking observations come from the usually conservative (and Conservative) guru Jaimie Watt … and the usually Liberal Warren Kinsella … on just where the race is now.

Just before 11 AM yesterday CBC News reported “Brown’s entry into the leadership race is a gift to the Ontario Liberals, according to Jaime Watt, executive chair of the public relations company Navigator and a long-time Conservative strategist … ‘I think it harms all the candidates at an important time in Ontario’s history,’ Watt said … ‘If I were (Kathleen Wynne) I’d be running to the convenience store to buy a lottery ticket.’”

The day before (Friday 16 February) just after 3 PM, and then updated just after 9 PM, CBC News had reported “Brown’s presence in the race is ‘totally unprecedented,’ according to Jaime Watt … ‘I don’t think anyone can remember such a thing happening,’ Watt told CBC Toronto …‘I think it calls into question the seriousness of the entire race … it has turned into a bit of a shitshow frankly … it actually harms all the candidates at a very important time in Ontario’s history.’”

Meanwhile, usually Liberal guru Warren Kinsella tweeted at 5 PM on Friday 16 February : “Upside for #ONPC: no one is paying any attention anymore to the other two parties” (to say nothing of the Green Party, which continues to languish on the fringes of what passes for a real world these days at Queen’s Park — with no one yet predicting that Patrick Brown in the PC race to replace Patrick Brown will boost Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner’s fortunes, in some vague bow to the most recent provincial election in beautiful BC ).

UPDATE, FEB 18, 11:00 AM, 8:00 PM : Robert Benzie at the Toronto Star has tweeted : “@brownbarrie launches his comeback leadership bid today at 1 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn near Pearson Airport. Rally is in the Trillium Ballroom B and C … 9:25 AM – 18 Feb 2018 from Caledon, Ontario.” Warren Kinsella has more recently urged : “In comparative terms, the Patrick Brown team’s hacking, trolling and online manipulations make Putin’s look rather amateurish … 10:32 AM – 18 Feb 2018.” … And (8 PM) Steve Paikin  is now reporting :  “I’m hearing the @OntarioPCParty leadership vetting process for @brownbarrie has completed the background check. Up next: a face to face interview with the candidate.  An up or down vote on his viability should be done by Wednesday … 6:17 PM – 18 Feb 2018.”

UPDATE FEB 19, 1 PM ET : A new poll by Lorne Bozinoff’s Forum Research suggests “the attention surrounding the PC leadership race has only served to help the party … Even Patrick Brown’s re-entry into the race isn’t yet showing as a negative, with just as many people saying they agree with the decision as disagree … Right now it looks as any of the four frontrunners would secure a majority for the PCs in the next election.”

For the time being I remain a sceptic on this front myself, and will wait for polls closer to the actual election on June 7, when Ontario voters typically start paying attention. But I certainly agree even now that anything is possible in the 2018 Ontario election. And the craziest thing about the stranger and stranger PC leadership race just may be that it will actually work for the party in the end! Maybe … (RW).

UPDATE FEB 21, 12:45 PM : At 8:11 AM this morning the CTV News site posted a Canadian Press article headlined “Decision on whether Brown can run in Ontario Tory leadership race expected today.”

“Genevieve Gualtieri and Patrick Brown — Facebook.”

At 10:16 AM Steve Paikin tweeted : “I’m hearing that @brownbarrie’s hour-long meeting last night with the Provincial Nominations Committee went very well. Reasonable explanations given to many questions. Expect Brown to be green-lit to run for @OntarioPCParty leader later today.”

At 10:25 AM Warren Kinsella tweeted : “@spaikin has the inside track with #ONPC machinations — and he’s right: they’re 3 to 2 in favour of letting the Patrick Clown Show continue.  Speaking as a Liberal, I welcome and applaud this wise decision.”

Meanwhile, the two main newspapers in the provincial capital city have now taken what appear to be warring views on the Patrick Brown issue (in keeping perhaps with Mr. Kinsella’s understanding of the broader partisan implications????). The (usually more conservative) Globe and Mail has published an editorial headlined “The PC Party should kick Patrick Brown out of its leadership race.” The (typically more liberal) Toronto Star has published an ostensible piece of reportage headlined “Patrick Brown’s girlfriend says it’s ‘wrong how media has treated him’ … Genevieve Gualtieri says he is one of the most ‘respectful, decent and caring’ individuals she knows.”

So … stay tuned … of course … (RW).

FINAL UPDATE FEB 21, 5 PM ET : The lovely Merella Fernandez on the CTV News channel is now reporting that “Ontario’s Tories green light Patrick Brown’s quest for leadership.” What else could they do?

Will this decision be as good for the Wynne Liberals as Warren Kinsella and others have implied? Who knows?

All I feel confident about myself is the argument that the June 7, 2018 Ontario election has become even crazier than it already seemed, say, this past summer. (And yes even crazier than BC, as Herb from Victoria in his wisdom suggests in his excellent February 19 comment below!)

As matters stand, it still looks to me like anyone can win (even the now civil-warring PC s who have been leading in so many polls for so long, yet again), depending on just how the various larger universes in which Canada’s most populous province lives its life evolve, over the next few months (March, April, May, and the first six days of June …) !

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  1. Ontario’s politics is looking even crazier than British Columbia’s!

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