I’m awestruck (awestricken?) by the capacity of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario to self-destruct.
No other party I’ve covered has the ability to grab defeat from the jaws of victory quite the way they do.
Last year’s election was a masterpiece of self-immolation. All former leader Tim Hudak had to do was show up and promise to be honest, not to cancel gas plants and not waste money on schemes like Ornge and he’d have won a majority government.
Somehow someone convinced him that was way too simple. So he promised to scrap 100,000 jobs — and the rest is history.
When they launched their leadership campaign last summer, the Tories pledged to focus on winning the next provincial election.
They vowed to talk to the party’s grassroots. They said they’d reach out to the province’s many multicultural communities where Tories traditionally aren’t strong.
It was all about renewal and reinvigorating the party.
What have they done?
Well, judging from a news release put out by Whitby-Oshawa MPP Christine Elliott, deemed the front-runner at the beginning of the race, they’ve succeeded in splitting the party once again.
Elliott’s release Monday accused her main rival, Barrie MP Patrick Brown, of “significant discrepancies” in his fundraising claims.
Brown claims to have sold an astonishing 40,000-plus party memberships by the sign-up deadline, Feb. 28.
Elliott accused Brown of not reporting the proceeds of three major fundraisers and said he’s only reported $197,316 to Elections Ontario, while his campaign says he’s raised $500,000.
Brown’s campaign responded, saying they’d transferred $439,805 in membership dues paid by the new members he’d signed up, and dismissed the rest of her complaints.
His campaign said he’s the only candidate who’s called for the party to release details of the membership sales.
“Rather than be transparent about her membership sales, Christine Elliott’s campaign has so far released a number of different membership sales figures,” the Brown campaign news release said.
“And, we understand they sent a lawyer’s letter to the PC Party of Ontario threatening them if they released any campaign’s membership sales figures — including Brown’s. What is she hiding?” the release asked.
Party president Richard Ciano said Elections Ontario provides financial oversight in leadership campaigns under the Elections Finances Act.
Those disclosures determine the fees owed to the party by leadership candidates, he said.
What they both need to remember is that once the campaign is over, whoever wins will have to glue back together the Humpty Dumpty pieces of a party that just can’t stop falling off the wall.
PCs can't stop shooting themselves in the foot | Blizzard | Ontario | News | Tor