Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown has managed in one weekend to lead that party on the path of repeating the electoral failures of Hudak, Tory and Eves. This weekend should have been a weekend to set forth a clear plan. A plan for the party to defeat Kathleen Wynne and end the 13-year reign of Liberal ineptitude. Instead taken the same well-worn path to the mushy middle of Ontario politics. Where style over substance, and feelings over reality are what matter. It is an all-to familiar recipe of failure, proof the party has not learned its lesson yet.
Sports analogies, motivational speeches and hockey sweaters aside. The real meat of any convention when there is no leadership contest, is policy. Brown has failed before the starters pistol has even fired. First he stated that party members will be the authors of the next platform and that the days of policies imposed from the top down are over. Next he proclaimed that the caucus supported the policy of implementing a carbon tax and that details will come of that in 2017. Back the truck up here. Stating members will shape the policy and then dictating policy from the top down with a plan coming a year from now is not doing things any different than before.
The grassroots determining policy is the absolute best way to come up with party policy. Members draft policy and then it’s debate, amend, debate again and then voted by the membership. It is the most organic way of creating a diverse policy that should appeal to the most voters of a certain ideology. That again is the failure of Brown. There is no ideology or direction, except for one; Move the party as far to the center as possible and unfold the big tent. Be the party of everything, to everyone, forgetting a party already occupies that space. The Ontario Liberal Party.
If given the choice between Liberal, and Liberal-lite, voters will go with the party they know and vote Liberal. Ask Ernie Eves and John Tory how well their big-tent, move to the middle policies, worked for them. Brown fails to understand that to beat the Liberals at their own game, his party has have to offer voters something different. Even the New Democrats get that from their far left-field perch in Queen’s Park. The further Progressive Conservatives stray from the “conservative” part of their name, the more they become Liberals.
To win Ontario and beat Wynne at her own game, Brown needs to adopt some conservative and dare-it-be suggested libertarian policy planks. Smaller government, less government, less of government being everything to everyone. Instead of being the same tent in a different colour, be a different tent! Adopt fiscal conservative platform planks like balanced budgets, not spending what you don’t have, paying off the debt and keeping taxes affordable to attract investment. Doing so does not make the party any less appealing to the majority of voters when the look at their pocket book, their hydro or grocery bills.
Adopting a small-government, personal freedom libertarian social policy can be progressive. The PC party could be the model of equality by stating that it is not the government’s business how you live your life. Marriage equality, yes. Marry whom you wish, because it is not the government’s right to dictate who you should be able to marry. Workplace equality, yes again. Government does not have the right to dictate who employers hire, and employers do not have the right to discriminate. Government’s role changes from quota enforcement and playing favourites, to fair play of the rules. Property rights, how and what you are allowed to do with your own property, again the answer is yes. Government is representative of, and empowered by, the people. Not the other way around. So long as what you do on your property does not infringe on the security, peace, property or rights of your neighbour, go ahead.
Small government, less government intrusion in your lives, a government that pays its bills without mortgaging its future. That is what Brown should have stated at this weekend’s convention. Not a move just to the right of center, but to more rights for Ontarians. Unfortunately this is a big opportunity missed by Brown, and he continues the tradition of failure that Eves, Tory and Hudak has blazed for him.