Monday, July 29, 2013

The Ontario Conservative Party's Hail Mary #pcpo #onpoli

Yesterday, the Conservative Party of Ontario released copies of emails it obtained that showed that Ontario Liberal staffers wanted to pressure the Speaker of the legislature into reversing his decision requiring the release of documents pertaining to the "gas plant scandal" - to suggest using partisan leverage against a non-partisan Speaker was not a good thing. 

However, the Speaker didn't reverse his decision and Premier Dalton McGuinty subsequently resigned.

The Tories are hoping that most voters in the Ontario by-elections - given the glee and excitement with which they released this information - have not made up their minds yet and will cast their votes accordingly. That is, voters would send a strong message to the governing Liberals that Ontarians are not impressed.

Let me set the stage for you on what stakes are involved for the Opposition Tories.

Ontario Conservatives are unhappy with leader Tim Hudak - he failed to lead his party to victory in the election of October 2011. He survived a leadership review in February 2012 after admitting he failed during the campaign. Some prominent Tories are even publicly calling for a leadership review outside of the normal party process.

Despite opinions to the contrary, these by-elections are a leadership review for Hudak. If after the lessons learned from the last election are not heeded and once again Tim Hudak snaps defeat from the jaws of victory, the Conservative leader will need to voluntarily step down or see his party revolt all around him. Tim Hudak knows this - he's been quiet and in the shadows during the by-election campaign - giving the limelight to Lisa MacLeod.

So now, we have the emails. The party releases them, the base erupts, and the media begins to tell the Conservative narrative. The situation is looking grim for Ontario Liberals.

The problem now for Hudak is that he must win all the by-elections. Anything less than absolute victory will be seen as something of a loss to the Tory faithful. I mean, who could vote Liberal after these emails are out? If they do, then it must be Hudak's fault. 

Before, if he had walked away with one or two seats, he could claim to be moderately successful and hold back the wolves till at least the next election.

The Tories might win London-West, maybe Etobicoke-Lakeshore, and possibly, but unlikely, win Ottawa-South. They have no shot in Windsor-Tecumseh or Scarborough-Guildwood. At best, it'll be 2 out of 5. 

Before the emails, that's a stunning victory for an unpopular leader. 

People who've made up their minds not to vote Liberal because of the gas plants are angrier now, but they still can't vote more than once. Further, people not in a by-election riding, can't vote at all. I'm not so sure this narrative will carry longer than this by-election campaign.

Regardless of the outcome, Kathleen Wynne will control the agenda on August 2nd. She's likely already working on her morning after speech about "hearing loud and clear the voice of Ontario".

Tim Hudak's speech options include why they didn't win as many seats as they should have and why he should stay on as leader.

I don't like Hudak's odds.

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