Have the Ontario PCs been Ubered?
By Christina Blizzard
, Queen's Park Columnist
First posted: Tuesday, October 25, 2016 04:37 PM EDT | Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2016 04:59 PM EDT
I’m starting to believe the PC Party of Ontario has been Ubered.
Younger, more energetic and tech-savvy people have moved in, using the party’s own rules to disrupt the status quo.
It happened first when Patrick Brown stunned party insiders by outselling and outmanoeuvring long-time party stalwart Christine Elliott to win the party’s top job.
A lowly backbencher in Stephen Harper’s government steam rolled the movers and shakers within the provincial party to become leader.
Now a similar thing has happened to Brown himself, with the nomination of 19 year-old Sam Oosterhoff as the PC candidate in the Niagara West-Glanbrook byelection — the riding recently vacated by former PC leader Tim Hudak.
I don’t think we should be critical of the nomination because Oosterhoff is young. We wring our hands and lament the lack of engagement of young people in politics — then when one throws his hat in the ring, we have a hissy fit and get righteously indignant.
We want young people to get involved. We don’t want them THAT involved. Don’t step on the old guys’ toes.
What has Tory insiders riled is that in winning the nomination, Oosterhoff brought down two Tory heavies: Party president and former St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra — Brown’s ally — and party vice president and regional councillor Tony Quirk, who was backed by Hudak.
The field was crowded. Businessman Mike Williscraft also ran, so that could have split the vote in unpredictable ways.
That’s not to detract from Oosterhoff, who — from his social media profiles — appears bright and thoughtful, although he has been labelled a social conservative who opposes the sex-ed curriculum.
PC leader Patrick Brown has said Oosterhoff’s nomination doesn’t worry him and believes Oosterhoff supports his view on sex-ed.
In many ways, Brown’s own nomination followed a similar path to that of Oosterhoff. He motivated a base of socially-conservative supporters, but later moved away from that position.
Last year, Brown led an official party delegation to Pride. He was not the first PC leader to do so. John Tory, also marched as leader of the party.
The sex-ed curriculum roared back in the run-up to last month’s Scarborough-Rouge River byelection that swept Tory Raymond Cho to Queen’s Park. Brown first issued a letter saying he’d “scrap” the sex-ed program, before insisting he supports it.
While Brown has now had three byelection successes, some still question how he’ll fare in a general election.
What some Tories are saying privately is that their one-person-one vote method of electing a leader, both at the leadership and riding levels, leaves them vulnerable to a take-over.
First used in the convention that handed Mike Harris the leadership, it worked in opening up the party so that Harris, an outsider, was able to win. Now, after four bitter election losses, some fear that system may be failing them.
Some now believe it’s time to regain control and to return to a delegated convention, such as the Liberals have, where deals are made behind closed doors and candidates are able to dramatically move their support across the convention floor. At the riding level, Liberals often parachute favoured candidates in, while Tories leave it up to the local riding association. It avoids coronations and forces candidates to work hard.
Oosterhoff was not available Tuesday, but has promised to speak to me when things quiet down.
“Very busy this week, but hope to contact you at some point,” he said by e-mail.
Oosterhoff’s victory serves as a lesson for other “establishment” candidates: Work harder. Take nothing for granted.
You never know: It may help the party revive itself.
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