TORONTO - Former Progressive Conservative premier Ernie Eves is taking aim at members of his own party just a few days before the provincial election campaign gets underway.
Upset that longtime Tory Norm Sterling was ousted from his Ottawa-area riding after 34 years, Eves warned Wednesday that a few individuals are trying to bring Tea Party-style politics to the province.
But he's not the only former premier who sees Tea Party ideology creeping into Canada.
Bob Rae, who served as Ontario's only NDP premier, jumped on Eves' comments as an indictment of Ontario Tory Leader Tim Hudak as a Tea Party operative of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
"It's no accident that Mr. Eves was on radio today talking about Mr. Hudak as the representative of the Tea Party North in Ontario and in Canada," the interim federal Liberal leader said in Ottawa.
"Mr. Hudak is the adopted son of Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Harper. He's their preferred candidate, he's their guy, he's Mr. Harper's trifecta: Harper, (Toronto Mayor Rob) Ford, then Hudak."
But Eves said Wednesday that his comments weren't directed at the party or Hudak, whose election campaign is just days away.
"They were directed at those few individuals who decided that the Tea Party version of Ontario politics would be good in that particular riding, and I don't happen to agree with that," he told Toronto radio station AM640.
Sterling "deserved a lot better treatment than he got from the people who decided that he was no longer necessary to the system," he said.
Eves was clarifying remarks he made at a Tory gathering last week, where he reportedly blasted the party for not treating Sterling fairly.
"I don't care who hears this," Eves said, according to the website YourOttawaRegion.com.
"The treatment that Norm got from his own party was not very polite, was not fair, it was not loyal, it was not compassionate, it was not even and it was not honest."
The website said Eves made the remarks during an Aug. 25 appreciation dinner for Sterling in Stittsville, Ont., that was attended by former premier Mike Harris and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
Despite having the support of Harris, Baird and even Conservative Senator Mike Duffy, Sterling lost the bitter nomination battle to rival Jack MacLaren, a former director of the Ontario Landowners Association, in March.
Fellow Tory Randy Hillier, a self-described libertarian and past president of the property rights group, was accused of working against his caucus colleague by campaigning for MacLaren.
But Hillier denied last December that he or his staff tried to stack the deck against Sterling by selling memberships in the riding.
Sterling, who served in cabinet under both Eves and Harris, had complained that the party did nothing while Hillier helped MacLaren in his efforts to defeat him.
Hudak wouldn't say Wednesday whether he shared Eves' concern about Tea Party politics, but noted that sitting Tories have been challenged in the past.
However, the battle around Sterling's nomination has been "tough to go through," he acknowledged.
"When you sit with somebody around the table like I did with Norm Sterling for practically 16 years, Ernie since 1981, it's family and it's friends," Hudak said.
"It’s difficult to go through no doubt about it. But it is democracy and democracy can sometimes be messy. But we have a democratic party and we will be working with Jack MacLaren to win that seat as part of a PC government."
Eves was not immediately available for comment.