By Frank Giorno
Four months till the provincial election, and all three major provincial parties, the governing Liberals, the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP have been jockeying to prove they can lead the province to prosperity over the next four years.
At the riding levels, each party is filling its rosters of candidates, including the 13 Northern Ontario ridings.
But strange things have happened on the way to the June 7, 2018 election. Both the Ontario Liberals and the Ontario Progressive Conservatives have been rocked by developments within a week of each other in January, that shone a light on their internal problems.
And while Andrea Horwath and the NDP have been relatively scandal free, will its lackluster performance over the last few elections attract voters.
The ONE will take a closer look at the wacky world of Ontario Election 2018 beginning with a look at implosion and possible revival of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.
It looked like smooth waters…
Heading into January 2018, things could not be better for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives. In November they released their election platform and unveiled their People’s Guarantee which generated some excitement.
On January 19, David Livingston, assistant to then Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, was convicted of destroying computer files related to the last-minute cancellation of two natural gas power plants in 2011.
Results in polls taken before January 24th, showed a double-digit lead for Brown and the PCs. At that time the consensus had Patrick Brown and the PCs in the lead. Things looked good for Brown and a disaster waiting for Wynne.
As commentators on TVO put it on January 18, 2018:
“As the province’s political parties gear up for the June 7 election, they know only a few things for sure: Premier Kathleen Wynne is extremely unpopular; the $14 minimum wage isn’t; and plenty of voters are in the mood for a change.”
The TVO report examined four polls taken by four polling companies that showed the PCs ahead by 8 to 10 percent over Liberals and the NDP.
…And then came the January tsunami
All that changed suddenly, on January 24 when the CTV story reported serious allegations of sexual misdeeds by Patrick Brown. Brown resigned, while pleading his innocence.
“I will remain on as a MPP, while I definitively clear my name from these false allegations,” said Brown after being pushed by party leaders.
Within days, another thunderbolt struck the party. Party president Rick Dykstra resigned amid similar accusations dating back to 2014 when he was a federal MP.
What looked like a slam dunk for the Ontario Tories suddenly had them in a state of disarray. Their chances of defeating the unpopular Kathleen Wynne government were sinking faster than Tim Hudak’s ill-fated run in 2014.
PC respond to Brown and Dykstra Affairs
Vic Fedeli (Nipissing riding, former Mayor of North Bay) was immediately named interim leader, and it was assumed he would lead the party into the election. Instead, the PC executive announced a leadership convention set for March 10, 2018 – roughly 90 days before the election.
Fedeli announced he would not seek the leadership. He explained that he was sacrificing his own ambitions to faithfully serve the party by focusing on “rooting out the internal rot with the PC party.”
Fedeli’s words implied there was something else rotting the party, in addition to the sexual misconduct accusations against Brown and Dykstra.
A hint of dissatisfaction with Brown and Dykstra first surfaced in 2017, when several losing candidates in PC riding associations accused Brown and Dykstra of manipulating the results.
Vikram Singh, defeated candidate in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, launched a lawsuit in June 2017, against the party alleging ballot stuffing and fraud. Singh withdrew his lawsuit on January 24, 2018, but a police investigation into claims are continue according to Hamilton media reports.
Earlier in May, the Toronto Star reported two other ridings, Newmarket-Aurora and Ottawa West-Nepean had losing candidates who also questioned the nominations results.o the
As of today, two candidates, former Toronto mayoral candidate Doug Ford, and Christine Elliott, who ran and lost to Patrick Brown at the last leadership campaign, finishing second. Caroline Mulroney, the daughter of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is expected to throw her hat into the ring.
Holding of a leadership campaign only three months prior to an election is unheard of in Canadian politics. But the PCs are optimistic this latest crisis will have a silver lining.
The voters might have a short memory. A fresh, inspirational leader and the publicity a leadership campaign could infuse excitement. Of course, Premier Wynne and Andrea Horwath will be sure to remind voters of the rot that exists in the PC.
Will Vic Fedeli root the rot fast enough? And is the rot in the PC party greater than that in the Liberal Party? The NDP has also had myriads of problems trying to define what they stand for in the 23 years since the last NDP government was defeated.
These are questions and there are four more months for voters to get the answers and make up their minds.
Northern Ontario Ridings