In the wake of Patrick Brown's dramatic resignation as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) party, long-time front-line PC party supporters like myself are left wondering what comes next. The desire to defeat the Ontario Liberal Party has certainly never been stronger on our part.
The party executive, to its credit, has allowed for a rapid leadership campaign, so that grassroots members can actually have a say in who is chosen next. To that end, we need to understand not only what the general public wants, but to appreciate who best can deliver on the promise of good, stable government.
Canadians, as a lot, are generally fed up with the status quo.
I've long maintained that the public doesn't really want any fancy new slogans and programs. The Liberals have been ramping these up ad nauseum in recent months. In health care, for example, the Liberals are touting "Patients First" and OHIP+ as part of their main strategy to woo the public (and hopefully get them to ignore a hospital system in crisis, a shortage of family physicians, and billion-dollar boondoggles like eHealth).
But you know what? Rather than new policies with fancy names (that certainly bring with them additional bureaucracy, but no meaningful new services) — I think that the public would simply rather have a government that just works efficiently. Period.
It turns out I'm not the only one. In an excellent analysis on why people like U.S. President Donald Trump (and, to a lesser extent, late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford) were able to win elections, former Rob Ford staffer G. Mark Towhey points out the growing frustration the general public has with typical politicians. Indeed, in Canada, politicians have incredibly low rates of approval. Canadians, as a lot, are generally fed up with the status quo, and want someone who will just, as he says, "make their lives just a little bit easier." No need for splashy new programs and glossy promotional leaflets.
Of the three main candidates running for leader of the PC party, at first blush it would seem like Doug Ford is favoured to be most different. However, while Ford Nation undoubtedly has an enormously loyal following (those of you driving north on Highway 400 just past Highway 7 can still see the homage to Rob Ford, put up by a car dealership, that continues to tout him as Toronto's best-ever mayor), the reality is that Doug Ford is too brusque for the rest of the province.
Christine Elliott presents well to the public, has good knowledge of the issues, and can clearly and eloquently state her views. She'd certainly be a far better premier than Kathleen Wynne. BUT...
The very strength she claims as hers (experience in government) is actually her Achilles' heel. People are fed up with the current status quo. They don't want someone with experience, or who was part of how things were run. This is associated with the same old, same old. The public wants someone to come in and... make their lives just a little bit easier.
As an aside, one really has to feel for Christine Elliott here. By all accounts she appears to be smart, honourable and decent person. Her choice of timing when to run for leader has been all kinds of bad.
Which brings us to Caroline Mulroney. She certainly is new, and cannot possibly be associated with "how things have always been done." Additionally, she has a very strong record in the business world and skills as a lawyer. This becomes exceptionally important as what government agencies really need to focus on is trimming waste, delivering the best possible experience and providing the public with value for their tax dollars. As someone with a strong history in business, where this is essential, she is ideally suited to promote this agenda.
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It also helps that she is already very well-spoken. Her interviews speak to her genuine warmth and ability to connect with others. Mulroney states that she actually seeks political advice from her mother, Mila Mulroney, rather than her father. Interestingly enough, when I (briefly) met her father at a campaign rally back in 1984 — he actually said the same thing! Truly some woman, that Mila Mulroney.
It's interesting to note that the Liberals already know that she represents their biggest threat. The pro- Liberal Toronto Star recently wrote a piece on her upbringing and tried hard to emphasize that she was fortunate enough to have been born to a wealthy family, slyly insinuating that she could not connect with the average Ontarian. Health Minister Eric Hoskins' former Chief of Staff Omar Khan, now a Liberal strategist, tweeted suggesting that she was a pawn of "Bay Street barons" and would slash social programs.
One really has to wonder how desperate the Liberals are when one of their strategists insinuates that she is simply a pawn for powerful men. It's 2018. Just acknowledge that she achieved a lot of success on her own — you don't graduate from Harvard, no matter who your parents are, without a lot of effort. Then say you disagree with her.
With a bloated, arrogant government unable to trim fat, and storm clouds forming on the economic horizon, Ontario desperately needs a leader who can deliver on a true conservative promise of reduced government waste, less taxes, a pro-business climate and, of course, making our lives just a little bit better. For the sake of all Ontarians, she needs to be the next premier.
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