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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Free advice for the Ontario Tories

I spent the election campaign waiting expectantly for Tim Hudak to give me a good reason to vote for the Progressive Conservatives. After the most inept and underwhelming campaign in recent memory, I finally decided to hold my nose and vote for them anyway. It's a sad state of affairs when a life-long Tory supporter like myself ends up voting against the Liberals rather than for the Conservatives. This state of affairs in Ontario has to change or the Liberals will be in power for a generation. Herewith, after much reflection, are my suggestions for Tim Hudak.

Stake out your place on the political spectrum

Stop trying to compete with the Liberals for the mushy political middle. You're a conservative: start acting like one. The right side of the ideological divide is completely empty in Ontario and there are four big-government interventionist parties competing for voters in the centre-left. People are yearning for a clear political choice - if your platform is indistinguishable from that of your opponents, why would anyone vote for you? We need a party that relentlessly advocates small government, fiscal discipline, low taxes, free-market economics and personal responsibility. The Conservatives need to be the party of the right and abandon the left to the Liberals and the NDP.

Social conservatism is a dead end

Sorry to all the socons who may be reading this, but policies aimed at social conservatives alienate the centrists and libertarians that the party needs to win elections. Hudak tossed out some policies aimed at the socon wing of the party (chain gangs for prison inmates, public sex-offender registries, "foreign workers", sex education) and walked right into the same trap that snared John Tory when he proposed tax credits for religious schools. Policies like this make the PCs look mean and narrow-minded and are political poison to a lot of voters. Matters of morality are best left to individuals and families, and heavy-handed law and order policies, especially in a time of declining crime rates, make conservatives seem heartless. Give it up.

Stop running away from Mike Harris

Hudak spent a lot of time running away from his past as a member of Mike Harris' government and laughed nervously every time the issue was raised. Huh? Lots of conservatives still support many of Harris' policies and believe that Ontario's dire financial situation needs a dose of the same medicine. Going out of your way to distance yourself from a man who won two consecutive majority governments for the PCs alienates your supporters and confirms to independent voters that you're not that different from the Liberals. Stop apologizing for the Harris legacy - explain it, own it, and be proud of it.

The media are not your friends

The established media are hostile to conservatives and have a vested interest in electing a Liberal government - don't count on them to get your message out. Ignore the CBC, CTV, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star and concentrate on grass-roots politicking. Trying to suck up to the main-stream media is pointless.

Go negative

I was begging for someone, anyone, in the PC party to attack McGuinty on his abysmal record of lies, failed policies, fraud and outright chicanery, and all we got was the "sneaky eco-tax" commercial with McGuinty intoning "some things will cost more". The word "Caledonia" was, to my knowledge, not mentioned once in the entire election. Dalton McGuinty is a dishonest charlatan - it's time the PCs get personal and go for the jugular. There's a lot of anger out there and people are frustrated. Tap into it!

Don't try to be hip

I can sum up the inept PC campaign in one word - "changebook". Seriously? That's the name of your policy document? I assume the brain trust that came up with that one was trying to tap into the zeitgeist and show that the PCs are down with the hip urban Facebook crowd. Look - Hudak has a Twitter feed! Look at all the "likes" he has on his Facebook page! Word to Tim Hudak - an election is not a high school cafeteria and no one except the CBC gives a damn if you've embraced social media, especially if you don't have any policies worth a tweet that are actually going to change anything. Fire your media consultants, figure out what the hell you stand for, and give people like me who are desperate for real change in Ontario something worth voting for.

The PC party did not deserve to win this election, and I hope that four years in opposition will focus the minds of the people who run the party. I'm not hopeful, though - it didn't happen after Ernie Eves or John Tory lost their respective elections, so why would it happen now?


The_Iceman said...

You are very, very wrong to call it the most inept campaign in recent memory. Unless your memory does not go back far enough to recall 2007. Infact Hudak did far better than the last guy.

Get a grip. to the radio said...

People respond to leaders.
The blah blahs say yeah we vote for our local representative but it's the leader that makes or breaks the election.

I just left Saskatchewan.
Brad Wall has 'it'.
And he'll beat Lingenfelter easily.

Back in Manitoba, too late to vote, I heard McFadyen's voice.
And I knew he wouldn't win.
It was visceral.

My question, is why parties keep serving us these people who don't have 'it'?

I don't know yet what 'it' is but I know that 'it' is what it is.
And that people know when they are given the choice.
They usually make the right choice.

Calgary Junkie said...

Like I've said before, the template for a successful campaign by an Opposition Leader is Harper's 2005/6 campaign.

The lessons Hudak should have taken from that campaign are:

1. Think through your entire platform before you open your mouth. His early outright opposition to the HST, followed by backing off, sent a message of incompetence.

2. Have pretty well every day of the campaign (except maybe the last week) scripted--where you will campaign, what your message/policy announcement for that day will be. DON'T get sidetracked by whatever the Libs are doing--for example wasting a whole week on the very minor "foreign worker" plank of THEIR platform.

3. Run a mostly positive campaign. Voters are already well aware of McGuinty's record, flaws, etc-negative framing of your opponent works much better with an unknown quantity, like Dion, Iggy, and (what we are seeing now in Alberta), Alison Redford.

4. Have some surprises in your platform, that will catch the Libs off guard, and unprepared for an effective response. Look what happened when Harper sprung the $100 per month for children under six. Scott Reid provided the gift of "parents will only spend that on popcorn and beer".

ck said...

One question: As a gay man, you weren't bothered by Hudak's homophobic flyers being passed around near the end of the campaign?

Anonymous said...

The day after the election, I got an addressed piece of mail from the local PC candidate. It was trying to help me know where my polling station was. Okay, there are lots of reasons why first class mail gets held up. But I sighed and asked myself if this wasn't another example of the sheer hopelessness of the recent non-campaign. BTW, I voted PC. Hope springs eternal.

Anonymous said...

I think this has been the best commentary on the failed PC campaign yet.

Bang on in every way.

I would only add one thing. Mr. Hudak came to be leader in no small part because he had staked out a position for abolishing the Human Rights Commissions. He then turned around and backed away from this promise before the campaign began.

Check out Randy Hillier being humiliated on behalf of Mr. Hudak by Ezra Levant on this video clip. I lost respect for Randy with this as well.

Either he blatantly lied to achieve the leadership, or he had no guts to defend his position. Liar, or loser. Either way a failure, and he went on to demonstrate this again and again during the campaign.

Cytotoxic said...

You can kind of answer the question at the end of the post with your decision I finally decided to hold my nose and vote for them anyway.


The flaks in the Big Blue Machine are actually now deluding themselves into thinking this was a 'victory', that they just need another crack at it like Harper's 2008 election. For an example of this delusion you can look at the postings of some idiot named Cosmo or whatever in the BT forums. Hudak could find a way to stick around. It might actually happen and you're too blame just a bit.

Eric said...


Yes, I was bothered by the flyers - it just reinforces the stereotype of redneck homophobes in the PC. Of all the issues to highlight in the dying days of the campaign, the Toronto School Board's Sex Ed Campaign is top of the list? It was a pathetic hail-Mary pass and it flopped spectacularly.

However, I've disagreed with the Tories (both federal and provincial) on gay issues many times before, but that doesn't concern me as much as the many other economic, foreign policy, etc issues on which I am diametrically opposed to the Liberals. I think it's best to work within the conservative parties to change this - it's one of the reasons I blog.

Eric said...


Get a grip? That's a little harsh. Saying that Hudak did a lot better than John Tory is certainly faint praise.

I stand by my statement - a guy who blew a 10 point lead over a morally and ideologically exhausted opponent is certainly running a monumentally inept campaign.

Eric said...


Well, it's a tough choice: vote in a swing riding to defeat an incompetent and dishonest government which is leading the province over a cliff, or send a message to the opposition party that I don't like their leader? That makes me a tool?