PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES – Exactly 11 months from today Ontarians will cast their ballots for a new government, and according to at least one poll the outcome of that vote is very much a question mark. Flying in the face of virtually every other poll showing the PCs with a commanding lead, Greg Lyle’s Innovative Research Group released results indicating a statistical tie between the Tories and Liberals. The poll still has Patrick Brown’s PCs ahead, with 30% support, but Kathleen Wynne’s LIBs have closed the gap, with 27% of decided voters leaning their way – despite the Premier’s own lingering unpopularity. Broken down regionally, the survey found the vote-heavy Greater Toronto Area once again trending red, while the Tories have significant leads pretty much everywhere else. Interestingly, this contradicts a poll by Forum Research, which suggested Toronto is shifting away from the LIBs. Forum reported 38% of Toronto voters favouring the Tories, compared to 32% for the Liberals. In both polls, the NDP is holding steady in the low 20s, a level they have consistently – and maddingly for them – been stuck at for ages.
DOUG OF WAR – Forum also asked another question with provincial implications, probing whether Toronto voters would support another mayoralty bid by former Toronto councillor Doug Ford. Two thirds of respondents said no, they’d prefer to re-elect current Mayor John Tory – which adds fuel to speculation Ford will opt to run provincially instead, likely in Etobicoke North. This is considered a good news-bad news scenario for Team Brown, inasmuch as Ford would be favoured to win the seat, but his bombastic, disruptive style could be a headache internally.
PREZ RELEASE – As if the Ontario Liberal Party didn’t have enough troubles as it prepares for the election, with uber-campaign organizer Pat Sorbara still sidelined by a pending court case, reportedly shaky finances and difficulties attracting candidates, now the party is in search of a new president. Michael Spitale has resigned from the volunteer post, citing increased responsibility in his day job at the Service Employees International Union as making the extra workload untenable. Long-time party administrator and current executive vice-president Peter Curtis will serve as interim president, while the OLP posts the job on its website for three weeks before the vacancy is filled by an appointment.
BARN BURNER – Not many targets could steer the Tories’ wrath away from the Liberals, but a great grudge match is brewing between them and an ex-Tory. PC MPP Lisa MacLeod wasted no time in skewering her former caucus mate and riding neighbour Jack MacLaren, who is now sitting as an independent MPP under the fledgling Trillium Party banner. In a move that would normally be reserved to try and embarrass the Liberals, MacLeod filed a formal complaint with the Chief Electoral Officer accusing MacLaren of participating in a fundraising event – now verboten under new campaign financing laws. “As you can appreciate, MPP’s [sic] who are following the new law and who are respecting the ban on attending fundraisers, are concerned with what appears to be a flagrant disregard for the law by MPP MacLaren,” MacLeod wrote, calling for an investigation. She cites a Trillium Party Facebook promotional video, in which MacLaren says, “I would like to invite you and all the people of this community to a fundraiser for the Trillium Party of Ontario at my farm.” In his own defence, MacLaren told the Toronto Star that he misspoke, and was actually referring to a food drive rather than a fundraiser. “It was plain and simple not a fundraiser,” he insisted. “No fee was charged to come to the barn dance. This was a free event like it has always been for all the years I have been putting it on.” He also fired back at MacLeod, chiding, “this complaint from a disgruntled PC MPP is pure nonsense and is a waste of time for the Chief Electoral Officer and a waste of taxpayers’ money.” This is only the latest salvo in a war of words that has also seen Trillium Party Leader Bob Yaciuk taking nasty shots at Brown (see For the Record, below.)
Meanwhile, the Tories have chosen their candidate aiming to unseat MacLaren next June. Retired doctor Merrilee Fullerton won the PC nomination for Kanata-Carleton – a new riding carved out of MacLaren’s current seat of Carleton-Mississippi Mills.
ICEMAN COMETH – Brown is an unabashed sports fan and counts many sports personalities, including legendary hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky, among his supporters. Now Brown has a former NHLer on his own roster, welcoming Troy Crowder as the PC candidate in Sudbury. Crowder was known as an enforcer during his playing days, which comprised 150 games over seven seasons for four NHL teams from 1987-97. He didn’t score much, compiling nine goals and seven assists, but did amass 433 penalty minutes and was a feared tough guy. Since then he’s been a development coach and has dabbled in skate design. “In the hockey world, I have figured a few things out, so that’s what I have been doing for the last bunch of years, trying to get the full potential out of people,” Crowder told the Sudbury Star. “Hopefully now, I can take that same kind of philosophy into politics.” For his part, Brown didn’t shy away from Crowder’s pugilistic reputation, gushing, “Troy is a fighter who will stand up for taxpayers and put the needs of his constituents first. Having played hockey alongside some of the greatest players of all time, Troy has proven he’s got the drive and work ethic to stand up for the people of Sudbury, making sure their voices are heard.” Crowder, who was acclaimed, will be up against Liberal Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault, in a riding the Tories haven’t held since the mid-1980s.
RUMOURS AND RUMBLINGS
Trailing in the polls and in fundraising, the Ontario Liberals are uncertain of who their friends are these days. So they’re turning to one group they know for sure will wave the party flag: Liberals staffers, past and present. In just a few weeks, the Ontario Liberal Alumni and Staff Facebook page has amassed more than 1,400 members, some from as far back as the 1970s. The FB page is mostly a repository for old campaign photos and reminiscences, but it has a strategic purpose in the here and now. It’s basically the database of an army of political veterans who can – and presumably will – be deployed for a variety of campaign tactics. Up to 500 of them will gather face-to-face at a reunion soiree in downtown Toronto on July 25, partly to rehash war stories but mostly to cogitate on how to forestall disaster in next year’s election. As one wag joked, unless they can turn things around, come next summer there will be a lot fewer staff and many more alumni.
FOR THE RECORD
“Why do people think that Patrick Brown will be better than Kathleen Wynne? This is a man that campaigned to become leader of the party based on scrapping the sex ed curriculum, based on fighting the carbon tax. Now he supports a carbon tax and won’t fight the sex ed curriculum. And now we are supposed to hope and gamble and throw the dice that he is going to be better than Kathleen Wynne? I challenge anybody to come up with a policy that Patrick Brown has that is different than the Liberal program.”
Bob Yaciuk, Leader of the upstart Trillium Party, which is made up almost entirely of disgruntled Tories. Yaciuk told radio host and Postmedia columnist Jerry Agar that there is a “cancer” inside the PC party forcing MPPs to follow orders, which is why MPP Jack MacLaren bolted to the Trillium Party (although technically he’s an independent).
“To those of us on the outside, this may seem a reasonable and overdue consequence of shifting away from an outdated willingness to let big money buy influence. To a good number of provincial Liberals, Ms. Wynne’s attempt to belatedly take the high ground … just looks self-defeating.”
Globe and Mail columnist Adam Radwanski, positing that the Liberals’ failure to adjust to new fundraising rules – which they brought in themselves – has left the party nearly broke.
“The OMA is a 137-year-old bureaucracy with an administrative staff of over 300. It is accountable to no one and is a tool for the Ontario Liberal government, which ensures the organization’s survival through mandatory, legislated membership dues of nearly $70 million annually.”
Kulvinder Gill and Mark D’souza, two of the outspoken doctors unhappy with negotiations for a new provincial physicians’ contract, announcing – through a Sun Media guest column – that they are resigning, in protest, their posts as Chairs of Ontario Medical Association districts.
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