He’s been clear that he didn’t want to do it.
But Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford’s decision to appoint 11 candidates to carry the Tory banner into the next election continues to create negative ripples for the party across Ontario.
Many people don’t simply join the PC Party because they’re conservatives — they also join because they care a great deal about local democracy and respecting the wishes of the grassroots. That’s why so many people seem to have been offended by Ford’s appointments.
Even a former Mike Harris cabinet minister weighed in on Twitter this week.
“Didn’t Mr. Ford object to [Patrick] Brown and the elites interfering with the democratic process?” asked Brad Clark. “A NEW leader can’t say that you’re going to return the party to the grassroots and promptly make this kind of decision.” He finished the tweet with the hashtag: “#duplicity.” That is an unusually harsh and very public condemnation.
Ford, of course, is counting on this problem to blow over, hoping PC members’ antipathy for Premier Kathleen Wynne will unify his charges and get everyone out to the polls for him.
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But the nominations fiasco appears to have led to another reaction among some Tories who, feeling disenfranchised, are abandoning the party and exploring other options.
Sandy McConkey has been a Springwater Township councillor for nearly eight years. She’s been an enthusiastic Tory supporter at the provincial and federal levels. She’s even served as an executive board member in her local provincial riding association.
Earlier this week, she tweeted the following rather cryptic message:
“It’s so nice to see the good weather. I can’t wait until the trilliums start coming out.”
Turns out, it was no comment on the weather. McConkey resigned from the riding executive of Barrie–Springwater–Oro–Medonte and joined the Trillium Party, a fledgling party that got a shot in the arm when former Tory MPP Jack MacLaren was either booted out of or left the PC caucus and decided to become its first-ever member in the legislature. (MacLaren is seeking re-election under the Trillium banner in Kanata–Carleton.) It is a party that believes strongly in economic liberty, individual freedom, property rights, and socially conservative values.
“Something was broken in the PC Party,” McConkey told me today. “Our candidates have been disrespected and disregarded.”
McConkey is 62 years old and recently retired from a career in the communications field in IT and change management. She simply decided that the Ford appointments were too much to stomach.
“I was looking for a party that listens to its constituents,” she says. “I’ve discovered the Trillium Party stands for freedom, democracy, family, and fairness.” McConkey says she’ll spend the next two months knocking on doors for her local Trillium candidate, Michael Tuck.
Tuck wanted to run for the Tory nomination in Barrie–Springwater–Oro–Medonte. He even went so far as to drive his nomination papers all the way to PC Party headquarters in downtown Toronto, only to be told days later there would be no nomination meeting: Ford had appointed Orillia lawyer Doug Downey to the post, despite Downey’s not living in the riding.
Tuck acknowledges the Trillium Party’s reputation can be “a little rogue,” but he has had conversations with party leader Bob Yaciuk and evidently came away satisfied that the party could make a difference.
“There are a lot of rumblings out there,” Tuck says. “People are taking notice of the Trillium Party and talking about it. And the people in this riding would welcome a Trillium candidate because they’re so upset at not having a say.”
Does the disaffection in Simcoe County represent anything more than a few upset local conservatives? That’s the key question. Ontario Conservatives win elections when two things happen: the progressive vote is evenly split between the Liberals and New Democrats; and all of the supporters in the big blue tent show up to vote PC. That means the coming together of economic conservatives, social conservatives, and, yes, “democratic” conservatives, who care a great deal about grassroots consultation and party procedure.
The danger for the PCs is, if the Trillium Party can hive off a chunk of support of any significance, it could be enough to deny Tories wins in some ridings. We know there are at least 11 ridings where some local conservatives are plenty miffed at being disenfranchised. It’s a good bet there are more. And in a close election, that could be crucial.