The day after the only leadership debate in Ontario's provincial election campaign, Conservative leader Tim Hudak entered the sanctuary of the Toronto Sun to answer questions.
The boardroom was filled with insightful interrogators. Lorrie Goldstein as host, editor-in-chief Jamie Wallace, Queen's Park columnist Chris Blizzard, editors Zen Ruryk, Ian Robertson, and others, including a pretty Sun TV news gal.
Not like the old days of the Sun, when for political interviews we had to round up bottle washers and anyone who was around to give the appearance of an editorial board. Even sports writers were conscripted.
In my view, Hudak came out on top in the debate -- despite no home runs, and none of the three party leaders radiating charisma mindful of John Kennedy.
Politely but effectively, Hudak nailed Premier Dalton McGuinty as one who lies, ducks questions, misleads, and pretends -- a premier whose government has grown by 80 per cent while the private sector grew by 10 per cent.
I don't know the figures, but I do know McGuinty can be relied on to spend more and raise taxes and reduce efficiency.
I expect the NDP's Andrea Horwath may gain a few seats in next Thursday's vote, but she's a sideshow to spend and waste more money. That's what the NDP do.
In the Sun's boardroom, Hudak had no problems. Why would he, since the paper is going to support him editorially, albeit not enthusiastically as it would if he were Ronald Reagan.
A couple of points that grabbed my attention:
When asked, should he become premier, if he'd ban the practice of Muslim Imams coming to some public schools to conduct prayer meetings and relegating girls to the back of the room and not to mix with the boys, Hudak said no one was going to discriminate against his daughter (which wasn't the issue) and that he trusted school principals to do the right thing (again, not the issue).
He balked at saying he'd oppose such practices, and repeatedly reiterated confidence in principals. His faith that principals would not be intimidated or pressured by minority groups or human rights zealots verged on the naïve... or cynical.
Why couldn't he say he opposed such discrimination, and promise to have his education minister take action if Conservatives form the government? Sharia law, anyone?
When he suggested he'd cut government spending by reducing the number of public service employees and cut back on pay scales, it seemed more rhetoric than substantial. If he cuts pay scales or fires people, his government will be in a donnybrook with unions -- the most privileged, coddled and exploitive elements in our society, compared to the beleagured private sector. Attrition seems his only course - not replacing those who retire, quit or die.
If elected premier, Hudak promised to reduce the number of cabinet ministers. One certainty is that every cabinet minister seeks innovative ways to spend more money. Fewer ministers means less wastage and boondoggles.
Hudak says there are some 630 agencies in Ontario that cost millions to maintain, yet nobody has ever heard of many of them. He would eliminate some agencies that are redundant or unnecessary, thus saving pots of taxpayers money. Can't argue with that. Hope he's serious.
He implied the OPP might have a reduced budget. Hmm. It could be argued that the police are society's thin blue line. Whatever police officers get should not be tampered with. Reduce overtime, sure, but don't reduce police numbers.
I asked Hudak if he had concerns about how the OSPCA was run -- a provincially-funded charity with exceptional policing powers. He said everywhere he's gone in the province, people have expressed concern about the OSPCA. He said MPPs Frank Klees and Garfield Dunlop have the OSPCA in their sights. One hopes so.
Anyway, that's Tim Hudak. One hopes he has a chance to implement changes, because it's a cinch that Dalton McGuinty can't, and won't.