Christine Elliott, and a significant portion of the PCPO membership, believes that she can convince Ontarians that the PCPO is progressive and acceptable and something you don't have to be terrified of. She and her supporters think it is possible to win the province by putting a nicer face on the party.
They are wrong.
It isn't her fault. I truly believe that she is a kind, socially progressive, and caring person who is just tired of scandals and waste and doesn't think we can go on spending forever. But unfortunately, the people of Ontario who aren't active party members don't see that when they look at her. They see her as another Mike Harris.
The reason why the people of Sudbury just put the PCPO candidate behind the independent candidate in yesterday's byelection, and the reason why the rest of the province is still blaming Mike Harris for everything wrong with the province decades after the fact, and the reason why they don't appear to care about the endlessly sleazy behaviour of the OLP is because they have an organic dislike of the PC Party of Ontario. They don't care who's leading it. They're not interested in how bad the Liberals are.
The Liberals will, without shame, tell Ontarians that Christine has a hidden agenda. They will run ads saying that under a Christine Elliott government, nurses will be fired and schools will be closed and inspectors will be fired. They will link her to Hudak because she happened to be deputy leader. They will ask why she hasn't purged the party of right-leaning elements, why she took the endorsement from Doug Ford, why she was seen within 10 kilometres of a gathering of the Ontario Landowners. If she votes against the Liberals on any money-spending measure, they will question her commitment to being as progressive as she says she is.
In short, they will ask what right she has to criticize this government when she herself is not perfect.
Tim Hudak, for all his faults, knew the Liberals were going to do all this to him and he didn't care. He assumed Ontarians wouldn't fall for the Liberal distractions, and he also assumed that nobody was going to question him or his party when they did do something egregious, but at least he wasn't kept up nights when the Liberals were mean to him.
Christine, on the other hand, will do everything she can to prove how progressive she is. She will loudly deny the accusations against her, and in doing so, will only prove the Liberals right.
This is because an astonishing number of people believe that if you say you are a thing, then there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that you are that thing. If a person has to say, for example, that they are not racist, then they are the world's biggest racist. If a person says they are nice, they are not nice, because they should never have to say that out loud. If you have money and someone else has less money, you should be giving that money to that other person without having to be asked. You must be above suspicion, or else you are just as bad as everyone else if not worse.
Because the PCPO is in some measure a conservative party, it is comprised of bad people. That's what Ontarians believe. So putting a nicer face on a party of bad people is just going to piss the voters off because they will interpret that as us thinking they're too dumb to see that the PCPO are, in fact, bad people. This is a far bigger problem than the problem of whether Christine is ideologically pure enough, because enough conservatives will go along with her anyway because they have no other option.
Stephen Harper, Rob Ford, and Mike Harris are three conservatives who have won elections with the full knowledge that people hated them, and were reasonably comfortable with that fact. They were and are violently partisan, held and hold views that horrified people, and did and do things that shocked the nation while in power. They are reviled. They are villains.
As far as I know, however, they have never gone on TV and told people they are nice and relatable.
The next conservative Premier of the Province will have understood that you can't get elected trying to be something you're not.