Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reasons Why We Lost: Stop Forcing The Issue

It is time for an open and frank discussion about why the PCPO lost, because "We didn't adhere to conservative principles" isn't going to cut it.

I am tired of losses and setbacks, and also victories, being explained by this phrase, which has become so devalued as to become meaningless. If a conservative wins an election, they are principled conservatives. If that conservative loses, it's because they abandoned those principles. If there is a conservative government, that government may be behaving in a ridiculously unprincipled fashion, but so long as they appear to be making progress, nobody rocks the boat too much. I have lost count of the number of times people called Harper unprincipled. It didn't stop him from winning a majority.

At best, "lack of conservative principles" is only one factor. People talk about it as though it is the only factor, and this ends right now. Unless we identify and examine the specific reasons why we lost, we will learn nothing.

Reason number 1 why we lost: We tried to force the issue on people. This needs to stop.

Since the leadership, our party- and that includes all four leadership candidates, all MPP's, and a large percentage of our base- has been opposed to the HST.  It's hard for me to remember a time when the HST and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing has not dominated any discussion I've had with any political person.

People don't like taxes. The PC Party of Ontario thinks that taxes are bad and wants to identify Dalton McGuinty as a tax hiker. Wedge issue identified! Commence outrage!

So we called it the Dalton Sales Tax, asked people to fill out anti-HST petitions, and drove a forklift into the Legislature bearing HST amendments.

Meanwhile, out in BC, people didn't like the HST either. But out there, they took a radically different approach: instead of an opposition party jumping in with both feet, former Premier Bill Van Der Zalm led the charge. Sure, the B.C. NDP stoked the fires, but instead of constantly reminding people that the tax was horrible, they let the people of B.C. draw that conclusion on their own. The resulting referendum claimed Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell. Here in Ontario, the two Liberals to have held the position of Revenue Minister- John Wilkinson and Sophia Aggelonitis-  lost their seats, but Dalton McGuinty lives to fight another day.

I get why we did it. We needed to stop the John Tory practice of going along with whatever Dalton said. But in the process- by making it "our issue"- we prevented it from becoming something the people could be mad about without becoming attached to a political party.

Making it our issue also means we have to deal with Liberal counterattacks, such as them calling our bluff and asking why we didn't repeal the tax if we were opposed to it. We also had to deal with people like John Tory saying he supported the HST. The people don't have to deal with counterattacks. If the people are genuinely angry- like they were the first time Dalton's sex-ed program came to light, or when they discovered the eco-fees had been slipped in- then, more often than not, Dalton will back down in some way.

Other times, we would try to make some issue people never heard or didn't understand of into an issue they should be infuriated about. The Debt Retirement Charge. The LHINs. The Samsung deal. On their own, these are objectionable, but Dalton is smart enough to keep just enough details about these items under wraps.

If we really want to discover a wedge issue that's going to burn Dalton, we need to amplify the things people are already angry about. Everyone knows about the Mississauga power plant and how we tried to make it into an issue that would swing some seats our way. But instead of working quietly with the group that brought the issue up in the first place, we ignored them.

While frustration simmered with the Liberal Ontario government's approval of the Eastern Power plant in 2008, many seemed equally frustrated with the Conservatives.
Not one Conservative candidate invited to the meeting attended.

"I used to be a card-carrying member of the Conservative party," CHIP's Rohn said.

"I'm disgusted. Not one of them bothered to show up tonight. All the other parties did."


Oddly enough, we managed to win a bunch of seats down south when our candidates there vocalized their opposition to wind turbines after realizing that people didn't like them. They didn't force the issue, they recognized there was one and acted appropriately. You think there might be a connection?

There are people out there in Ontario who want to defeat Dalton McGuinty. It shouldn't be hard to find them.


  1. I agree with much of what you say here.

    I've been critical, as you know, of the Hudak campaign. One of its most frustrating aspects was the complete lack of subsntantive communication between the "main office" and us lowly grassroots. Many people saw this electoral disaster coming, and tried to express concern. I never received ONE non spam email response from the Hudak campaign. It just seemed to all be on autopilot.

  2. Love the blog but I don't think you've understood the lesson Ontarians sent the PCPO in this last election. The real lesson is that the current Neo-Con leadership of the PCPO is out of touch with what most Ontarians care about. Less than 20% of eligible voters were captivated by the neo-con message (and I suspect that many of those who did bother to vote for the Party, did so as a protest against McGuinty, rather than for the PCPO's current platform).

    Don't get me wrong. This is not an endorsement of the Liberals. Ontario is Red Tory country, and many of us who have historically supported the PCPO were/are very upset that the Party has been taken over again by ideologues who clearly have no prudent management skills and a socially mean streak. No offence, but we put our stock in Mike Harris, and that turned out to be a disaster - repeatedly we've seen here in Canada and abroad that neo-con fiscal policies are trojan horses ridden by people who have a mean streak.

    So, the real lesson is that the PCPO let itself be taken over again by neo-cons, and Ontarians did not forget. And it's a darn shame too. We really needed a fiscally prudent management team in office, but one with a heart. Hudak and team clearly weren't either, and McGuinty certainly isn't. So we are stuck with four more years of crap and unengaged citizenry.

    Keep up the good blogging though. Maybe something good will emerge from all this, like a phoenix!

  3. The OPC is still run by red-tories who think they're the natural governing party and all they have to do is wait for voters to come back to their senses.

    This is why they ran a front-runner campaign despite polls showing the parties were tied.

    I agree the HST was a missed opportunity. They should have promised to cut it. Instead they borrowed the decades old NDP policy of removing it from heating costs which never worked for the NDP and surprise!...didn't work for us either.

    I also agree with the other commentator that the OPC isn't truly grassroots. They claim the platform/policies were developed by members, but unlike the federal party, where they're no-charge input from the local ridings, all the OPC policy development meetings cost around $500 to get in, all but ensuring that the true grassroots, regular voters, didn't take part. The only people who would pay $500 for policy workshops are partisans who all drink from the same bathwater. With no contrary views it's easy to see why Hudak thought his platform would catch on with supporters since he was surrouned by "yes-men".

  4. being liberal lite is the problem.

  5. Good thoughts and hopefully someone is listening (this time!)

    "My turn!" is simply not a good enough platform to campaign on!

  6. We have one comment that says the OPC is being run by red tories, and we have another comment that says they are being run by neo-cons. Can't be both. As you might imagine, this will be the subject of another post on why we lost.

    Glad to see there's a market for this sort of thing. Stay tuned.