Rivers: The First PC Debate was a snooze; with Patrick Brown back in the race the second could well be a circus.

Rivers 100x100Ray Rivers

February 18th, 2018



It is hardly the greatest show on earth. No, not the Barnum and Bailey show which retired last year. It’s that other circus called the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership contest. And so far it’s a long way from being entertaining, as anyone watching the first four declared candidates square off for an all-candidates debate on TVO’s The Agenda would have to agree.

Patrick Brown resigning

Patrick Brown resigning

But perhaps the campaign will get more exciting now that a fifth candidate, former leader Patrick Brown, in the running. Brown is making noises like he was set-up, and he is determined to clear his name from the sexual allegations which forced his resignation in the first place. He points to holes which are already starting to appear in both of the allegations against him.

The first of two TVO debates was among the sleepiest debates of all time. It would have been much better theatre had Brown been there to counter all the slings and arrows… and mud being tossed his way.

Tanya Granic Allen

Tanya Granic Allen

The latest candidate, before Brown’s re-entry, an angry, ardent, young woman by the name of Tanya Granic Allen, rubbished him for not promising to get rid of the provincial sex-ed curriculum. She also tore into Christine Elliott for not defeating the Liberal ban on the questionable practice of gay sexual conversion therapy.

Granic Allen declared that the recently member-approved election platform called the People’s Guarantee, is now dead – but gave no indication of what would take its place going into an election a little over three months from now. And she grumbled about the last leadership and how the membership lists were rigged. Despite the PCs being well funded and more popular than before he became leader, she accused Brown of destroying the party.

The other three candidates Doug Ford, Caroline Mulroney and Christine Elliott were less committal on the platform, stressing that only the carbon tax was dead, as far as they were concerned and that they would take the federal government to court on this. They also agreed that they’d have to run a deficit to pay for their promised 22% income tax cut, though Elliot was convinced there were saving to be had somewhere.

Elliott PC

Christine Elliott

Elliott, a former provincial politician turned civil servant (patient ombudsman) was particularly disappointing in her performance. She had trouble identifying almost any of the issues facing the province, let alone how she would better deal with them. That can happen to politicians once removed from political office – John Turner in the 80s comes to mind. She lost out twice in seeking the leadership so perhaps she was just being guarded about another defeat, or tired of it all.

Mulroney also seemed painfully ignorant of what the job entailed and unable to identify issues, though at least she wouldn’t kill sex-ed, or the minimum wage. She would just figure it all out once she’d looked at the budget line-by-line. One could ask why she hadn’t done that before this debate. Though well composed and calm most of the time she occasionally had that deer-in-the-headlights look about her.

Her lack of depth is likely a consequence of being such a relative newcomer to Ontario politics and Ontario. After all she lived so much of her life in Montreal or the USA, where she also holds  citizenship. It was hard not to want to paraphrase Stephen Harper’s quip about his rival Ignatieff – she didn’t come back for us.

Doug Ford

Doug Ford

Doug Ford was remarkably reserved, given his reputation. He kept going back to his own and mostly irrelevant experience as a Toronto Councillor, supporting contracted garbage services which arguably saved a billion dollars for the tax payers. He said he’d pare back the layers of bureaucracy and the Green Energy Act in particular. When asked to be more specific he mentioned the grade six math scores and said that sex-ed was to blame.

This is still relatively early in the leadership process since nominations had just closed on Friday. But the winning candidate will be announced March 10th, so there isn’t much time for these characters to whip themselves into shape for the next leadership debate at the end of February. Membership sales also closed on the 16th and it will be interesting to see how many supporters of these candidates have been added to the lists.

Brown back in the race

Brown back in the race

Winners are rarely made by a debate. With Brown back in the race, assuming his nomination is approved, all bets are off. He, no doubt, is counting on those loyal supporters who picked him in the first place coming back to support him. Brown, having been the principle author of the platform would at least have a much better handle on the issues facing the province than any of his competition.

All of the candidates, in particular Mulroney, talked of the need to be different from the status quo. Change the government just to get rid of Kathleen Wynne. But then it would be helpful to know what they would do better – and there was little sign of that from any of these hopefuls. One only has to look south of the border to see how well change for the sake of change is working there.

PC Four candidates

The four candidates in the first debate will be joined by Patrick Brown in the second debate.

The leadership ballot will allow members to rank the candidates in order of preference. So expect to see Elliot and Mulroney gang up so that they are each other’s first and second choices. We should expect Ford to mobilize his Ford Nation political organization to get every ultra-conservative marking him as the only candidate. That angry young Allen woman is destined for last spot, given her scary demeanour alone. With Brown back in the race, he might just win again.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

PC Eat Itself –     Brown is Back –     Brown’s Allegations

TVO Debate –     More Debate –     Even More Debate

Caroline Mulroney –     Christine Elliott –    

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2 comments to Rivers: The First PC Debate was a snooze; with Patrick Brown back in the race the second could well be a circus.

  • Stephen White

    While Brown’s decision to take a lie detector test demonstrates confidence in his claim he did not commit the actions he is accused of, in and of itself it doesn’t vindicate him. The results haven’t been made public. Similarly, his claim that he was “set up” isn’t substantiated. If he can adduce evidence to prove that then there may be some substance to his argument. Absent that, I don’t know how he can state that he has cleared his name and is now free to run.

    Allen certainly showed some dynamism during the debate even if she is essentially a “one issue” candidate. The sad thing is that there are other PC caucus members (i.e. Vic Fedeli, Lisa MacLeod, Todd Smith, John Yakabuski) who not only have seats in the Legislature but have won repeatedly in the past and have a reasonable claim to experience.

    Less than four months before a provincial election is not the time for on the job training.

  • Hans

    Thank you for a “good read” Ray 🙂