05.18.2016 09:41 AM

Putting the “progressive” back in PC?


That, clearly, is what newly-minted Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader Patrick Brown wants to do: make the “progressive” part of their name a reality again.

It’s fair to ask this question, however: has it ever been progressive in the past generation? In my view, it hasn’t really been that way since Bill Davis.

John Tory was a progressive conservative, but the Ontario PC caucus and membership sure weren’t. He wanted to bring them back to Davis – but they all wanted to get back to Harris. (And, to sue for peace, Tory let in the Landowners. Big mistake. Trojan Horse, etc.)

Tim Hudak was truthful, at least: he didn’t have a progressive bone in his body, and he let everyone know it. They voted accordingly. 

Mike Harris? Well, we all know how that worked out. His ‘Common Sense Revolution’ was certainly the latter, but not so much ever the former. He won, sure. But when Ontarians saw what his revolution meant – Ipperwash, Walkerton, hospital closures, firing of nurses and massive social unrest – they were the ones who rebelled. His party hasn’t been in power since. 

The Republicans are a good recent example of what happens when conservatives let red-meat ideologues – the Tea Party, et al. – conduct a friendly takeover. It empowers lunatics like Donald Trump, and it also simultaneously alienates the significant majority of voters who aren’t far-Right kooks. Like Nixon used to say: run to the Right to get the nomination. And, when you get it, start running back to the Centre. 

I haven’t met Patrick Brown or spoken to him. I do know some of the folks around him, however, and they are scary-smart modern conservatives. If they are in any way representative of his thinking, I think it’s safe for the rest of us to assume that he is genuine in his quest to pull his party – kicking and screaming – into modern times. 

That said, his party may like it where they are. And that, of course, will result in Patrick Brown being this decade’s John Tory – a man in sync with his times, but leading a party that decidedly is not. 


  1. Cath says:

    You wrote “That said, his party may like it where they are. And, of course, will result in Patrick Brown being this decade’s John Tory – a man in sync with his times, but leading a party that is not. ”

    You’re exactly right IMO Warren. I’ve been a previous supporter of the PC because I thought I understood what it stood for. I’m not certain I do now. I’m feeling alienated.

    Maybe that will change? I’m tired of being disappointed and told to sign up here for input on issues and policies, that someone will call, that there will be frequent updates and mailings. So far. Not much at all. Those little things at this stage in the rebuild are important to the grass roots IMO.

    Another term of Wynne isn’t tolerable though so……………maybe Patrick’s team know that’s what many are thinking and the only logical choice for the province is his more modern version of the PCs. The very fact that I’m right here confessing this is worrying…and should be for them as well.

  2. hatrock says:

    With Wynne clearly moving to the environmental left, as Notley has done in Alberta, there is now room in the centre for both PC parties to own. For the Ontario PCs to have selected Brown is a good first step. Brown wanting to be more centrist is another one. Notley actually attracted former PC voters with populist tax policies that were palatable. Brown could do the same.

  3. SD says:

    Patrick Brown is not only a threat to Kathleen Wynne, he is a threat to the NDP’s Andrea Horwath. While she will present her pet issues of lower hydro rates and an eventual $15 minimum wage, Patrick Brown will likely cover the other issues. Strangely, he will probably fight for better labour relations with teachers, doctors, nurses, and public servants. He will fight for the environment while respecting families and businesses. He will appear as a moderate. I do predict that Patrick Brown will become the next premier of Ontario.

  4. Ted H says:

    So Brown is a white cat and not a black cat, ultimately it makes no difference to the mice, Conservatives are Conservatives, purveyors of a fundamentally flawed political philosophy.

  5. monkey says:

    I think it can be done as the right wing are loud and noisy, but their actual numbers are much smaller than they claim to be. They only do well when there is a strong level of anger and people vote of anger. Saskatchewan Party prior to Brad Wall winning in 2007 and more recently the Manitoba PCs until their recent victory or the UK Conservatives prior to 2010 all had this issue, but in each case their leaders were able to prevent them from having too much control. John Tory’s problem is he was too much of a gentleman and not willing to stand up and stare them down as he came from an era where politics was more civil and less adversarial. In addition the Liberals have been in power 15 years by next election whereas it was only 4 years when John Tory won and one usually has to mess up pretty badly to be a one term wonder whereas after 15 years the desire for change is usually quite strong so the opposition just has to not mess up to win.

  6. .gord gemmell says:

    I would not trust Patrick Brown as far as I could throw a piano.Anyone who saw
    him on The Michael Coren show would surely have thought he was our version
    of The Tea Party,thoughtless, insensitive ,objectionable neocons.

  7. Ian Howard says:


    Patrick Brown should take this up as an issue. Wynne when education Minister thought diversity and getting more teachers into the classrooms who students could relate to was a good idea. Since Laurel Broten’s disgrace and exit the Liberals have seemed indisposed to rile the teachers unions.


    If he’s smart and wants to make inroads in urban areas here’s a wedge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *