Friday, March 6, 2009

Why Voting Red Tory When You Got Liberals?

That's pretty much the message from the recent by-election in Ontario. Voters in what has always been a strong Conservative riding have elected a Liberal.

I wish I could say that the FCP supporters have split the vote and cost John Tory his seat and (hopefully) his job as a leader of the Ontario PCs, but unfortunately this wasn't the case. Most of the Conservative voters simply stayed home. They didn't find much of a difference between a Progressive pretending to be Conservative John Tory and the Liberal candidate Rick Johnson, but they weren't ready to try something new and cast their ballot for Ontario's only pro-life, pro-family political party. (If they were even aware that such a party actually exists.) That's sad.

Now, is there a silver lining? Yes, there is. The recent by-election has clearly demonstrated that "Progressive Conservatism" is losing its place in Canada's political spectrum. Urban voters don't buy this Liberal Lite brand - they'd rather vote plain Liberal. And, as we've just seen, rural voters aren't enthusiastic about the Red Tory brand either; they'd rather stay home than blindly cast their ballot for a candidate who is a Conservative in name only.

Let this be a lesson for the Ontario PC party. So far, all its electoral losses have been blamed on the traditionalist small-c Conservatives. The "Red Tory" wing kept claiming that in order to succeed, the party should become more moderate, more centrist, more progressive, more broad-based - even if that means alienating the party's traditional supporters. Well, they've got the most progressive, most moderate, most tolerant and "accepting" leader they could ever hope for - and they failed miserably. Will they be ready to learn from their mistakes now? Are they going to try and bring back at least some of the voters they've alienated so successfully? By the way, the Federal Conservatives too could learn a lot from what has happened in Haliburton — Kawartha Lakes — Brock.

As for the Ontario Liberals - for them it's nothing but a Pyrrhic victory. Had John Tory won the by-election, he would have secured his position as a leader up until the next general election - literally granting Dalton McGuinty yet another term in power. This however is not going to happen. After having managed to lose a by-election in a riding where any other PC candidate would have won with a safe margin, Tory will most likely step down; making way for a real Conservative leader and giving the Ontario PCs an opportunity to prepare themselves for the campaign of 2011.

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