This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada, which closed in 2021.

The Troublesome Fractures In The Ford PC Party

A fractured party means a fractured government in Ontario lacking the talent and focus required to deliver.

fAs the media, politicos and Ontarians come to terms with Doug Ford, the newly-elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PC), so are the supporters of the party who helped put him there.

Spare a thought for them.

They want what they think is best for the province, and it drove a great many of them to sign up to vote for a possible next Premier.

The provincial PC Party's loyalists and insiders turned to Christine Elliott, for the third time. She offered stability that also could look like change if required.

A significant number of high-profile federal Conservative endorsements and traditional Ontario PC stalwarts swung toward the new, fresh approach of Caroline Mulroney.

Progressive Conservatives leadership race candidate winner Doug Ford speaks with his wife Karla in Markham, Ontario, on March 10, 2018.
Progressive Conservatives leadership race candidate winner Doug Ford speaks with his wife Karla in Markham, Ontario, on March 10, 2018.

Mulroney also ran the most slick, made-for-TV campaign that raised her more money than all the other campaigns. Based on financial disclosures, in totaling donations above $100 only, she raised more than all of the other campaigns combined at almost $1 million altogether.

Based on how much the other campaigns are claiming to have raised, there must have been a lot of passing a hat around.

In that few short weeks that the leadership campaign lasted, you couldn't even spend most of the money.

Ford spent all of his time on retail ground-game, and waited for endorsements to come his way and seek him. He had less than a handful on the day of the vote. It arguably helped him keep his blue collar, anti-elite image.

The conservative movement for many years has had to unite starkly different world views: social conservatives and Red Tories, with a sprinkle of libertarian. They often talk about themselves as a coalition.

These fractures hold together with vigorous discipline until the moment they don't. Moments where the factions compete, like a leadership race.

In this PC race, supporters took their fringes of the party and pulled them until they were drawn and quartered.

PC Leadership Convention day: a grueling and challenging day of sitting in a hot room resorting to getting news from social media left the most passionate, loyal delegates in the Markham hall discontented going back to their hotel rooms, after they were kicked out of the hall. Many of them traveled to Markham just for one moment: the balloon drop that never was.

Once it was done, the PCs — through gritted teeth of knowing they were turning to their most polarizing candidate — still had the ability to swallow their disappointment.

Elliott and Mulroney represented the path out of 16 years of desiring power and having it slip through their fingers.

And popular vote winning Elliott could have gone a long way by immediately backing the electoral college winning Ford, but those 20-some hours of rejecting the process and the outcome was a second wind for those insiders who did not want to watch their party go off the rails again.

Ford was reportedly disappointed that Christine Elliott took his big moment away by contesting and not conceding immediately. Every moment strained the party's ability to reunite.

We may yet see "elite" (AKA experienced) PC operatives line up behind their new guy with roots in the grassroots (yes, they chose a guy despite multiple opportunities to avoid reminding people of their last scandal-plagued male leader.)

The cracks were clear during the PC Leadership process. We had an interim Leader saying they must root out the rot in their own party. We had a leading candidate in Ford calling out "elites" — not just in other parties or within the governing Liberals — but also in his own party. At the 11th hour, we saw calls for the resignation of the Board of Directors for the party by sitting Members of Provincial Parliament.

As a result, this party is going to be hard to put back together again.

It's not unique though. Similar challenges have faced Liberals and the NDP in leaderships past.

A fractured party has even been a challenge faced by Scheer's federal Conservatives following their own leadership process, hence Maxime Bernier and Conservative Futures that have been preparing for the next leadership since the moment he lost the last one.

I am not one of Ford's supporters nor a supporter of one of the people who sought the job he now holds, but having been a part of leaderships, nominations and other campaigns — I've seen telltale signs of the messy state of affairs they find themselves in.

The cracks have not been plugged, and Ford does not have the bench strength that lined up behind the others, yet.

The traditional PC Party and its backers are coming into collision with Ford Nation. And I will not discount that Ford could win if the Liberals and the NDP voters don't align to stop him.

The party came to the brink of implosion in its pursuit a fresh start, which should have distracted from their fumble during their last false start (he was also an outsider who was going to fight the elites.)

A fractured party means a fractured government lacking the talent and focus required to deliver; that may be the worst outcome of all.

Also on HuffPost:

Suggest a correction
This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada. Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns, please check our FAQ or contact