Some Tories pushing to dump Tim Hudak immediately
A defiant Tim Hudak is trying to remain at the helm of the Progressive Conservatives until a new leader is elected — despite angry caucus members urging him to go.
In the wake of Thursday's humbling defeat at the hands of Premier Kathleen Wynne's Liberals, the Tories met for almost four hours in an emotionally charged meeting at Queen's Park.
Hudak emerged from the closed-door session insisting he was sticking to his timetable and serving as leader until his successor is chosen, which could take many months.
"I have no regrets," he told reporters when asked about the controversial pledge to eliminate 100,000 public sector jobs over four years.
"We could all do Monday morning quarterback . . . I'm proud of the campaign we ran."
The Tory chief — who earns $180,886 as leader of the official Opposition, a $64,336 premium above the base $116,550 salary of an MPP — did not sound like he was in a hurry to leave.
"I announced my plans on the Thursday night. The party will decide what the process is around a new leader."
But some Conservative MPPs want Hudak to depart immediately so an interim leader can be appointed and the party can move on after the election debacle.
"We need renewal in our party and it has to start today," said Todd Smith (Prince Edward-Hastings), blaming the leader and the central campaign team for the "brutal . . . devastating" 100,000-job-cut pledge.
"This was an anti-Tim Hudak election," he said, adding Hudak simply cannot stay on.
Smith and other Tory MPPs confide the party needs to tack back to the centre.
"We need to definitely not poke the bear, so to speak. What we've seen is a very confrontational approach over the last little while and I think we need to have a softer approach, a more collaborative approach," he said.
MPP Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk) said he gives "credit to the organizational skills of the public sector unions" for his party's rout.
"We have a government for the government unions run by the government unions," said Barrett, noting the Tories gave public sector workers something to rally against by threatening massive cuts.
MPP Randy Hillier (Larnark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington) said "the 100,000 jobs absolutely" hurt PC candidates.
Hillier said he heard concerns about Hudak's promise on many doorsteps while canvassing.
Conservative MPPs are especially furious with the central campaign — namely Hudak and advisers Tom Long and Ian Robertson — and blame them for the shellacking.
"We handed them a distraction from their own record," said one incredulous defeated Tory, referring to a Liberal government plagued with scandals after more than a decade in office.
On May 9 Hudak, with local MPP Rod Jackson at his side, made the promise at a campaign stop in Barrie to slash 100,000 positions. Jackson's Liberal opponent later used that vow as a bludgeon to help defeat him.
To a person, Tory MPPs claimed they were "blindsided" by a promise, announced with little notice or consultation, that quickly became an albatross as they went door-to-door in their ridings.
"It was our policy we couldn't explain as well as we should have," said defeated Etobicoke-Lakeshore incumbent Doug Holyday.
"They were able to misconstrue it and convince a majority of voters what we were doing was horrible," said Holyday, who had been the lone Tory MPP in Toronto.
Defeated Cambridge incumbent Rob Leone said "the unions definitely did their job and got their vote out.
"We heard it at the doors. It was a tough message to sell," Leone said of the austerity measures.
Conservatives who were re-elected said they had to refocus more on their own efforts and records of achievement in the legislature, such as issues championed and private members' bills put forward.
"Sometimes you have to give the finger to the central campaign and go local," one survivor told the Star.
Last Thursday, Wynne led the Liberals to a stunning majority election victory, winning 58 seats in the 107-member legislature to 28 for the Tories, who lost nine seats, including six incumbents. Andrea Horwath's New Democrats were held to 21 seats.
Along with Holyday, Jackson and Leone, Ted Chudleigh (Halton), Rob Milligan (Northumberland-Quinte West), Jane McKenna (Burlington), and Jerry Ouellette (Oshawa) also lost.
With Hudak's future uncertain, there is already interest in who could get the party back on track.
MPP Christine Elliott (Whitby-Oshawa), a frontrunner to be the next leader, said "it's too early to say" whether she will run. Elliott said right now the Tories need to assess the damage.
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