Musings —09.19.2011 06:29 AM—
Tim made a brief reference to the Ontario race. Since that contest hasn’t been covered so much in these pages—and since the political significance of Jack Layton’s passing has been covered extensively—let me offer some perspectives on federal politics from inside the Ontario Liberal war room.
For those who still cling to the view that Stephen Harper is a Master Strategist, take my word for it—he isn’t. In fact, if Ontario Tea Party leader Tim Hudak loses on Oct. 6—and I believe he will—Harper is one of the three federal Conservatives who will share the blame.
Just a few weeks ago, you see, Harper and his hangers-on journeyed to Toronto for a back-slappin’, good-ol’-boy Conservative barbecue with far-right Toronto mayor Rob Ford. There, as someone videotaped the proceedings, Harper called for a Conservative “hat trick”—in effect, so that the same conservative cabal would run the province, the GTA, and the country.
Harper’s remarks were a disaster. The PMO scrambled, comically, to scrub the evidence from the internet, but it was too late. Ontario voters—female voters, in particular—saw what he said, and they didn’t like it. Hudak started a downward slide from which he has not recovered. Ontarians do not want the same wrecking crew running everything.
The second federal Conservative to hammer Hudak’s chances was Harper crony, and MP, Scott Reid. With his immense personal wealth, Reid bankrolled a coup against progressive Ontario PCs, and helped finance his Ontario Landowner Association pals Randy Hillier and Jack MacLaren. With Reid’s help, Hillier and MacLaren split the Ontario PCs into two warring camps. And Hudak’s inability—or unwillingness—to deal with the resulting rebellion led to his two predecessors, Ernie Eves and John Tory, to denounce the Ontario PCs. The party is now like the federal Conservatives in 1993—Reformers on one side, and truly progressive Conservatives on the other. Both sides despise each other.
The third federal Conservative to play a role in the destruction of Hudak—who, remember, had a double-digit lead over my party for a year—was his campaign manager, tobacco lobbyist Mark Spiro. Spiro, who advertised the fact that he was a member of Harper’s war room, approved the disastrous anti-“foreigner” strategy that has laid waste to PC fortunes in Toronto, Ottawa, London, Windsor, and anywhere else with a significant ethnic demographic. Seeing his party’s fortunes crumble, Spiro has frantically tried to erase the anti-immigrant xenophobia, but—so far—it hasn’t worked. One poll has placed the PCs in third place in Toronto.
There are still two weeks to go in the Ontario race, and we provincial Liberals are running like we are way behind. We will be relentless.
But if we get the honour of a third term, I believe that it is three federal Conservatives—Harper, Reid and Spiro—who will have helped us do it.