Is rocky Ontario PC leadership race foolishly turning into “A Red Tory Living In A Blue Tory Nightmare”?

Mar 4th, 2018 | By Randall White | Category: In Brief

Doug Ford awaits results of 2014 Toronto mayoral election with his wife Karla and three daughters. Even if he wins on March 10, 2018 there will also be a lot of women behind the major male candidate for premier.

GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. SUN 4 MARCH 2018. 12:00 PM ET.  Just after noon yesterday the Canadian Press reported : “Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party is giving members even more time to sign up to cast their vote for a new leader.”

The report went on : “The party has already extended the voter registration deadline once, pushing it back from March 2 to March 5. It now says voters can sign up until 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7.”

(And in case you’ve forgotten : “Voting to choose the new leader got underway yesterday and is set to close on March 8, with the results announced on March 10.”)

Andrew Coyne (from CBC TV’s “At Issue” panel etc) calmly responded to a Strategy Corp tweet of this latest voter-registration extension with “Everything is fime.”  (And a response to Coyne’s tweet from one-time aspiring PC candidate Dean Baxendale urged : “With less than 15% registered you know why.”)

According to a Globe and Mail report from Justin Giovannetti this past Friday, in the midst of all the registration extensions “Vote for new PC leader appears to be a two-horse race: Christine Elliott and Doug Ford.”

Against this perception a group of eight “former Harper-era” federal cabinet ministers (including former Harris-era provincial minister Tony Clement, and popular Milton MP Lisa Raitt) tweeted support for Caroline Mulroney yesterday.

Caroline Mulroney (far left) at 24 Sussex in Ottawa, Ontario.

(Ms Mulroney herself argues she has lived in Ontario most of her life. And note her formative years from 10 to 19 in her father’s prime ministerial residence at 24 Sussex in Ottawa — which is certainly in Ontario geographically. Some Ontario provincial observers nonetheless see her as an upscale girl from Montreal, who married the son of a prominent New York editor at a church in Westmount — a perception sustained by such documents as her wedding announcement in the New York Times. She has some of the problems Conservatives once laid at the door of the cosmopolitan federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.)

If the Ontario PC leadership contest we’ll know the winner of on Saturday, March 10 really has become a two-horse race, the obvious ideological battle lines put Christine Elliott on the Red Tory progressive left, and Doug Ford on the Blue Tory conservative right.

* * * *

Christine Elliott with her husband, the late Jim Flaherty, on another campaign trail in 2006.

I’ve always had trouble myself with the progressive credentials of the Christine Elliott who was  the wife of the late Jim Flaherty, aggressively right-wing finance minister of Mike Harris’s Common Sense Revolution. But my wife tells me this is just because I don’t understand women.

On the other ideological side, the Trumpist Doug Ford is also apparently attracting some of Patrick Brown’s anti-PC-establishment vote, which is not exactly right wing at all.

This past Friday the Toronto Star published an editorial arguing it’s “just as well that the campaign for the leadership of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives is so short … The candidates have been running so fast to the right that it’s hard to imagine how far they’d get if they had to duke it out for a few more weeks.”

The Star went on to urge that the new right-wing tilt of the PC leadership race fits Doug Ford and Tanya Granic Allen nicely. But the “more dispiriting spectacle has been watching the other two candidates, Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney, join the flight to the right.” At the same time : “It will make a big difference if the winner is Doug Ford, and the right-wing message is carried by a dyed-in-the-wool, convinced populist, or the new PC leader is, say, Christine Elliott, who might well tack back to the centre once the leadership is secured.”

Toronto-born businesswoman Tanya Granic Allen on her current farm in Grey County, Ontario.

Meanwhile back in the online universe, yesterday someone called “A Red Tory Living In A Blue Tory Nightmare” tweeted : “If @TGranicAllen wants to start her own Regressive Conservatives Party, she has my blessing. Good luck with that. But she doesn’t get to hijack the Ontario PC brand to force her backwards, anti-gay, anti-choice agenda on Ontarians.”

The obvious guess is that after March 10 both Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath would prefer to be fighting Doug Ford’s PC brand as opposed to Christine Elliott’s. He at least seems the most like Tim Hudak in 2014, who according to legend is what finally lost the last election the PC s were supposed to win.

On the other hand, the progressive problem with Doug Ford is that — like his brother in the Toronto mayoral race of 2010 and/or Donald Trump in the US presidential election of 2016 — he might finally win in the real Ontario election that counts on June 7. (And while he may be just enough smarter than Donald Trump, that too remains less than certain … )

Former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown with friend and colleague Tamara Macgregor at Toronto Life cocktail party, November 2015.

On the other hand again, if Christine Elliott (who also seems the favourite of the PC establishment and/or much-faded big blue machine of days long gone by) becomes the new PC leader on March 10, Liberal and New Democrat analysts will just think up new reasons why adding a third woman who only claims to be progressive to the big June 7 race is the real big mistake. (And that could be true too!)

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