John Tory

John Tory, known as a Bill Davis acolyte was elected as leader of the provincial Conservatives.  One wonders if this signals the death of neo-conservatism in Ontario? The short answer is no and the long answer is N O.


With John Tory as the new leader of the Ontario Conservatives, how do you view the party and its prospects?  It will take years to get Ontario back from the neglect and disrepair left by the Conservatives under Harris. Meanwhile, they will tell McGuinty he broke promises as he struggles to deal with the mess they left him. Does electing a new leader wipe away the party’s history?


Is John Tory's supposedly more socially conscious image just that or if and when John Tory gets power maybe he'll merely take us down the same path of Harris or Eves, who, we are still suffering ill effects from.  


Actually I like John Tory as the new leader.  He is more to the center than the other two. His community work in Toronto will serve him well. He will unite the Conservatives and McGuinty will have to be on his Ps and Qs.


There are some problems with John Tory, he's pro-private health care, pro-private school tax credit, and pro-welfare bashing. These present a problem for Ontarians. 


From where I stand the Conservative Party will always serve the interests of big business, regardless of who the leader is.  I am worried that John Tory's 'shift to the left' is merely theatre. When he gets elected, he will probably continue the privatization agenda of his predecessors.


But politics, like life, is cyclical, so neo-conservatism will no doubt be on the upswing some day in the future. 


There were neo-conservatives in the Ontario Conservative party in the early 1980s, but they were controlled under the leadership of Bill Davis, a centrist who, as premier, actually expanded the role of government including the imposition of rent controls, the purchase of an oil company, and the creation of TV Ontario. Tory was his chief aide then.


Neo-conservative Harrisites were welcomed back into fold and given the reins of power.  In the run-up to the 2003 election, they produced a platform that called for more tax cuts, a ban on teachers' strikes, more police, a crackdown on illegal immigrants, and a scoop law for the homeless. Much of it was borrowed from Flaherty's leadership campaign platform.


The voters rejected it and elected McGuinty and the Liberals. But the neo-cons did not accept the blame. Rather, they blamed Eves for his uneven performance.  


Surely, Tory's victory should be a wooden stake driven through the heart of neo-conservatism.  But we must remember that on the first ballot 55 per cent of the votes went to Flaherty and Frank Klees, candidates who are far right and both called for two-tier medicare.  With such a demonstration of support within the party, Tory cannot afford to ignore the neo-cons.  Indeed, he will have to reach out to them when platform time comes around.


To appease the neo-cons, Tory will almost certainly have to include a plank about the private school tax credit, he talked about it during the leadership campaign, and another tax cut.


A law-and-order plank would be no problem for Tory because it would reflect his own views, as articulated in last year's Toronto mayoral campaign.  Tory may even agree to some welfare bashing in the platform.  So neo-conservatism is not dead in Ontario. It retains a foothold in the Provincial Conservative party.


And if Tory were to lose the 2007 provincial election, the neo-cons would no doubt reclaim the party leadership and boldly declare I-told-you-so.



I am Clyde Mc Neil for CHON Radio Dateline