On March 9, Progressive Conservatives across Ontario will get to choose a new leader from a list of candidates, but according to party leadership rules, it may not make a difference who, ultimately, is tapped for the role.
Frontrunners for the election appear to be former Ontario PC MPP, Christine Elliott; anti-establishment former Toronto City Councilor Doug Ford; and Carolyn Mulroney, the inexperienced yet highly-electable lawyer who also happens to be a former Prime Minister's daughter.
And Postmedia chair Rod Phillips is also rumored to be interested in running.
All of these candidates have their own unique “electability” factors, but since the rules surrounding this election were publicized, it’s become clear that it may not matter at all who wins the leadership role.
The Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) recently released its election rules – and it contains an interesting point. Under section 5-c's “Eligibility” requirements, the rule states:
No person shall be a Candidate unless he or she… supports the aims, principles and objects of the Party and the policy resolutions adopted at the Constitutionally-mandated 2017 policy process, and so confirms in the prescribed form
That rules in accordance with section 18.7 of the Ontario PC Party constitution which requires that candidates base their election campaign platform on the adopted policy from an annual policy conference.
Recommended Resolutions passed at annual Policy Conferences shall constitute the foundation on which Party policy and legislation is developed until the next Policy Conference.
This could mean that whoever wins the election will, more or less, have to campaign during the general election on Patrick Brown's “People’s Guarantee” platform which supports the very unpopular “carbon pricing” (i.e. carbon tax).
When Patrick Brown first announced his support for “revenue neutral carbon pricing," his audience was horrified. People present in the room were actually jeering him.
Yet the PC Party members still voted to adopt Brown’s platform, and therefore could be constitutionally required to uphold it.
Of course, Doug Ford already announced on radio that he would “consider reversing the carbon tax.”
When pressed, Ford said, “a tax is a tax is a tax is a tax.”
Even Christine Elliott has mentioned being against a carbon tax.
So, one would think that regardless of what a piece of paper mandates, Doug, or any leader, could always just ignore that policy.
And I hope they do.
Because if this leadership election culminates in everyone agreeing on policy, then – to cite Hillary Clinton's infamous phrase, "what difference, at this point, does it make who wins?" Sure, there are arguments to be made about the electability of different candidates, who they appeal to and who has the most name recognition.
But the point of politics shouldn’t just be “electability.” Politics should, at its core, be about bettering the lives of those around us. Conservatives and Liberal-NDP leftists disagree philosophically on the best way to improve people’s lives. That’s what an election should be about, ideas, not "electability" factors approved by a campaign strategists and focus groups.
What’s the point in having a Conservative party, if you’re not conservative? If you want Liberal-lite because a candidate is more “electable” than just go ahead and vote Liberal.
I’m not arguing you have to be a traditional conservative on every issue, but being Liberal-lite is a wholly different story.
Whoever wins the leadership election must pledge to withhold support for an increase in taxes, and that includes the dangerous Trudeau-Wynne carbon tax.
And if a real conservative does win, then I hope he or she doesn't honour the Liberal-lite policies of Brown’s platform.