By Kevin Werner, News Staff
As Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party prepares for a showdown at its policy convention this weekend in London, Ont., over whether to allow a leadership review,Hamilton area Progressive Conservative candidates remain firmly behind Tim Hudak to take them into the next provincial election.
“I am going to voting for the current leader,” said Hamilton Centre Tory MPP candidate John Vail. “It’s not the right time. Our constitution states a leadership review take place after each general election.”
David Brown, the Hamilton East-Stoney Creek Tory MPP candidate, is also refusing to join a group of party members who want a review of Hudak’s leadership after the party won only one of five by-elections Aug. 1.
“I support Tim,” said Brown.
He characterized the uprising of a number of MPPs, including Frank Klees, and Hillier as “more than it really is.”
Donna Skelly, the Tory candidate for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, says she also backs Hudak, but believes the push from a few MPPs and party members fromLondonto get a leadership review is producing some desirable results.
“You have the right to say you are frustrated, or uncomfortable, or you have some questions about your leader,” said Skelly. “I don’t find this a problem.”
Over the last few weeks as the drumbeat from Hudak’s disgruntled caucus has risen, Skelly has liked what she has seen from Hudak. He has stripped Randy Hillier and Peter Shurman from the PC’s shadow cabinet, and he has come out forcefully against the other party members who have been agitating for change. Hudak has come under criticism for his party’s poor showing Aug. 1 in the by-elections. The party won a Toronto by-election- the first time since 1999 – while the NDP and the Liberals won two each. Some party members pinned the blame on Hudak for the PC’s lackluster result.
After the 2011 provincial election, in which Hudak was leading and was poised to form a majority government, the party instead failed to unseat the Liberals, becoming the opposition party. In February 2012, Hudak received 78.7 per cent in support from the members after the required leadership review.
“In the long run, Tim is actually showing more leadership,” said Skelly. “He is doing more in the last two weeks than I’ve seen him do since I’ve (been nominated).”
It’s expected that on Saturday (Sept. 20), members fromLondon, in conjunction with a few other Tory MPPs, will attempt to pass a motion to get a leadership review. They need a two-thirds majority of delegates to amend the constitution.
Bryan Vanderkruk, Hamilton Mountain’s Tory MPP candidate, expects the party will emerge from the convention, stronger and able to take on the Liberals.
“The party will be, by and large, unified behind him,” said Vanderkruk, who is not attending the convention. “Hamilton Mountain is supportive of our leader 100 per cent. I’m behind him.”
The four Tory candidates attended a party fundraiser Sept. 18 at the Lakeview on Van Wagner’s Beach Road. About 60 people turned out for the event, that also included Conservative MPs David Sweet and Dean Allison, and keynote speaker Hamilton businessman David Braley.
Sweet urged the candidates to remain true to the party’s principles of cutting taxes, creating jobs, and eliminating debt.
“Treat taxpayers’ money like your own,” said Sweet.