The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario took another step in its efforts to rebuild, re-brand and form government, with its Election Readiness and Policy Convention this weekend in Toronto and the surprise release of the Party’s Election Platform: “The People’s Guarantee.”
Traditionally, the PC Party has had grassroots policy determined by delegates on the convention floor. This time, however, the PCs took a different approach. Members were given the chance to vote on policies in advance of the Convention, and those results have been known for weeks. This approach was designed to attempt to have the Party – and the Leader – to take control of the message in Toronto. So the Ontario PCs abandoned ‘convention’, and used the weekend instead to formally release its election platform in an effort to articulate the Party’s priorities in the lead-up to the next election.
Since being elected Leader in May 2015, Patrick Brown’s election strategy has been to attempt to position himself as a Premier in waiting. That strategy has also involved working to portray his Party as more inclusive and moderate than his predecessors. To this end, Brown is trying to make the Ontario PCs more palatable to a wider spectrum of voters, including progressives, while at the same time managing the traditional right-wing faction of the Party.
Surprise Platform Release
In a speech to members on Saturday afternoon, Brown unveiled “The People’s Guarantee” an election policy document that lays out the new PC vision. During his speech, Brown’s desire to keep the existing conservative base, while deliberately moving towards the centre, was evident. The platform commitments he chose to highlight represented a mix of traditionally conservative policies, such as tax breaks, and more centrist promises that the Party hopes will help them gain seats in urban areas, including:
- 22.5% lower income taxes for the middle-class
- A 75% refund of child care expenses
- 12% more off hydro bills
- Increased commitment to mental health in the province
- Introducing a “Trust, Integrity and Accountability Act”
Coming out of the Convention, it’s clear that the Ontario PC Party’s message to voters continues to be one of “change.” After 14 years in power, the Tories are eager to seize on the narrative that life has become more difficult under Kathleen Wynne and that Ontario families are working harder, paying more, and getting less. Time will tell if the electorate will buy it at the ballot box.
While recent polls have the Ontario PCs in first place in most regions of the province, Brown still faces the challenge that he remains relatively unknown to Ontario voters and is lacking policy specifics. It remains to be seen how public opinion will evolve now that the PCs have staked out policy positions in the platform.
Over the coming months, StrategyCorp will be profiling additional policies included in the PC Platform. Check back at strategycorp.com for updates. And you can read the full text of the People’s Guarantee to see more detail on the PC’s announced election policies. .
Update on PC Nominations
With less than seven months to go before the election, the PC Party continues to nominate candidates across the province to carry the banner in 2018. Of the candidates selected to date, some are known faces while others are jumping into elected politics for the first time.
While the Party has faced some criticism and media attention for its handling of a number of nominations, Brown has been focused on identifying a diverse and qualified team to take on the Liberals and NDP.
Brown has focused on recruiting well known names in the province, such as former NHLer Troy Crowder and Postmedia Chair Rod Phillips. And like the federal Liberals, the recruitment of women has been one of his stated priorities.
Despite the challenges that the Party has faced during nominations, if elected Patrick Brown should have a strong front bench (i.e. Cabinet), with experience from both the private and public sectors, and at the federal and provincial government levels.
Over the coming months, StrategyCorp will be profiling notable and prominent candidates that have chosen to run for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario in the next election.