Advertisement
ontarionewswatch.com NEWSROOM

Can Patrick Brown fix the Ontario PCs?

By Randall White 


The Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race had already slimmed down to a field of three a few months ago. But it was still murky. 

Now, with the departure of London area MPP Monte McNaughton on April 9, the home stretch has become a clash between what seem like two clear alternatives.


In one corner is the “establishment" candidate Christine Elliott, 60 years old, MPP for Whitby-Oshawa and Ontario PC Deputy Leader — a fiscal conservative but socially progressive. 

The “outsider" candidate is Patrick Brown, 36 years of age — a social conservative federal MP for Barrie. He is unmarried and bilingual.

The almost exciting thing about the race right now is that he has the momentum. 

On evidence provided by the candidates themselves Mr. Brown has sold more new party memberships (40,000) than Ms. Elliott (34,000). 

Questions about geographic coverage and voter turnout still raise doubts about exactly what will happen on May 3 and 7 when party members old and new cast their ballots. (The results will be announced on Saturday, May 9.) 

Not surprisingly, it has been reported that in the past four Ontario PC leadership contests the candidate who sold the most new memberships won in the end.

A recent poll of PC party members, using publicly available data on PC party donors from the last decade and undertaken by Mainstreet Technologies, has also found Patrick Brown leading with 47%. Christine Elliott, it found, has 41% support. 

Then there was a sizzling Waterloo Region Record editorial recently, headlined “Patrick Brown changes the game.”

It called Brown a "dark horse who has galloped into the spotlight," saying he may change not only the province's PC party, but Ontario itself.

All this lends fresh urgency to a question posed by the Toronto Star last month: “Who is Patrick Walter Brown?”

To start with, he was born in Toronto in 1978, said the story by the Star's Richard Brennan. 

Like such ancient hockey greats as Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Ted Lindsay and Frank Mahovlich, he attended the Catholic private academy known as St. Michael’s College School on Bathurst Street in Toronto.

He went on to study political science at the University of Toronto, eventually earning a law degree at the University of Windsor.

Politics appears to be in his blood. His lawyer father once ran for the NDP. His school-teacher mother descends from a Conservative family in Barrie.

The report went on to say Jean Charest’s leadership of the federal Progressive Conservatives inspired a teenaged Patrick Brown in the later 1990s. 

Brown was still a university student when first elected to Barrie city council in 2000 and re-elected in 2003 with 72% of the vote. 

In 2004, in his mid 20s, he ran unsuccessfully against Liberal Aileen Carroll for the Barrie federal seat. But when he contested the riding again in 2006 he won, and was re-elected in 2008 and 2011.  

The knock against Brown is that “he hasn't accomplished very much in Ottawa during his nine years as a backbench MP in Stephen Harper's government.”

The negative buzz will no doubt grow louder as the finish line approaches.

Many criticize his social conservatism: in 2012 he voted for a failed private member's bill that might have reopened the abortion debate in Canada.

At the same time, a website called “Canadian Conservatives For Legal Marijuana” underlines Patrick Brown’s almost libertarian view of cannabis. It “does not pose the same dangers as other more serious drugs." He worries that its current status results in "a misuse of law enforcement resources.” 

But at the same time, Mr. Brown has called himself a red Tory. And he has reached out to newer “visible minority” voters in Southern Ontario who share his social conservatism, with some success. 

He has been friends for several years with the new conservative prime minister of India, Narendra Modi.

Mr. Brown’s campaign has won some other intriguing endorsements as well - Paul Godfrey, Wayne Gretzky, Hugh Segal and Devon White. 

He certainly does have enemies. Rob Ford came out for Christine Elliott this past weekend. 

Ontario history suggests that Conservatives in the province have usually done best when they have not been too conservative.

The April 13 editorial in the Waterloo Region Record may nonetheless have landed on the most important point. 

Both final contenders “have demonstrated they can build support for the Conservatives beyond rural Ontario.” 

The editorial went on: “They each represent smaller communities in the 905 area surrounding Toronto. Elliott's centrist policies will play well in cities ... Brown has made important inroads into Sikh and other South Asian communities in suburban cities like Brampton.”

One way or another the Ontario PCs are going to be changing and trying to move ahead regardless of who wins on May 9.

 

 

 

About Randall White

Randall White is a former senior policy advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Finance, and a former economist with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He is the author of Ontario 1610-1985: A Political and Economic History and Ontario Since 1985. He writes frequently about Ontario politics.
Posted date : April 23, 2015

View all of Randall White's columns
ontarionewswatch.com NEWSROOM
The auditor is suggesting the internal culture of the RCMP is so dysfunctional it requires civilian oversight. Mahoney, Capobianco and Parkin on whether that's a good idea.
May 17, 2017
A Liberal government led by a woman in BC, up for re-election after holding power for more than 15 years. Sound familiar? Randall White on whether there are lessons for Kathleen Wynne.
May 11, 2017
The Liberals are moving left as we near the 2018 election - a reprise of the last provincial and federal campaigns. Will it work a third time? Mahoney, Capobianco and Parkin debate.
May 10, 2017
This past Earth day, the planet surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere. Terri Chu laments that as long as polluting is cheap, it will continue unabated.
May 08, 2017
The Defence Minister is accused of lying when he described himself as "the architect" of a major offensive during Afghanistan war. Should he step down? Mahoney, Capobianco and Parkin debate.
May 03, 2017
Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne's approval ratings have plummeted a year ahead of next year's Ontario election. But not so fast, says Peter Shurman - don't count Wynne out yet.
April 28, 2017
Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Lindsay will be the pilot sites for the Basic Income Project for 4,000 lower-income people. Is it a good idea? Mahoney, Capobianco and Parkin on that.
April 27, 2017
If Ontario really does put Canada first, it has to be a big supporter of the new Canadian Free Trade Agreement scheduled to take effect July 1st. Randall White delves into the details.
April 22, 2017
It's been thrown around for everything from fat paycheques (read Bombardier) to tax credits for creating jobs. Brad James thinks it's time to give the old phrase a rest once and for all.
April 21, 2017
Finance Minister Charles Sousa is promising to act in the province's budget being brought down next week. What exactly should it do? Mahoney, Capobianco and Parkin on that.
April 19, 2017
Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go. But who should be the new leader? Mahoney, Capobianco and Parkin are in the ONW Salon.
April 12, 2017
A 20% border tax on imports into the U.S. is under hot debate among Republicans. What would such a tax do to Canada, coming on top of new NAFTA negotiations? Mahoney, Capobianco and Parkin debate.
April 05, 2017