In the dog days of August, the race to replace ousted Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak is quietly taking shape online and on the road.
Hopefuls are hitting the Internet and the highways to suss out support and sign up party members, while the party mulls a date, higher campaign spending limits, entry fees and new voting rules for a convention next April or May.
The summer tours “bode well for the future of the party on the heels of the election loss,” said MPP Lisa MacLeod, buoyed by the Tuesday launch of www.webelieveinLisa.ca.
“I know a lot of people are hurt but this is reinvigorating.”
MPP Monte McNaughton launched a website at www.monte.ca touting himself as the best bet to lead the party that Ontarians have shut out of power in four elections over 11 years, most recently on June 12 when Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals won a majority.
“It’s going to take a lot to rebuild . . . our goal is to visit all 107 ridings before Oct. 20,” McNaughton (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex) told the Toronto Star.
That’s when the legislature returns from a summer break that was extended into the fall. Business in the wake of the election had kept MPPs at Queen’s Park until late July.
McNaughton and MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) said they’re waiting for the party executive to decide on rules before committing to leadership runs.
Those details are expected after Sept. 21, with sources saying candidates should expect to see a higher entry fee than the $75,000 from the 2009 race won by Hudak — designed to weed out “non-serious” entrants — and a higher spending limit than the $750,000 set then.
Raising funds could be challenging so soon after the party’s defeat, largely blamed on Hudak’s controversial promise to cut 100,000 public sector jobs, and with municipal elections coming Oct. 27.
As well, the party is mulling a two-stage voting process in which members would cast ballots on the entire field of candidates first, then hold a run-off vote for the top two vote-getters with results to be released at the convention, which will likely be held in the GTA.
That could replace a preferential, one-member one-vote ballot system used last time, when the only declared candidate in this race so far, Whitby-Oshawa MPP Christine Elliott, placed third.
MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) said party members are used to a preferential ballot and the executive would have to be “persuasive” to bring in a run-off system.
MPP Vic Fedeli, who has a website at www.fedeli.ca, said the convention timing for next spring has turned the race into “a marathon, not a sprint” and his travels across the province will include a stop at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario convention in London next week.
“There were a couple of factions that wanted this race to happen very, very quickly,” he told the Star.
While Elliott, who announced her candidacy shortly after the election in late June, would have benefitted from a fall vote by giving rivals less time to organize, sources said Barrie MP Patrick Brown, a lawyer and foe of abortion, was also hoping for an earlier leadership convention given that there is a federal election in the fall of 2015.
Brown’s website is at www.whypatrickbrown.com. Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt is also said to be mulling a run for Hudak’s former job.
The next Ontario election is slated for 2018.