Canada Patrick Brown’s deke to the left may spook his own party

17:51  29 november  2017
17:51  29 november  2017 Source:   Toronto Star

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The Ontario PCs’ new platform may appeal to the centre- left writes Thomas Walkom. But will Conservatives like it?

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Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown poses for photos at Leland Industries in Scarborough touting his election platform, © Provided by Toronto Star Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown poses for photos at Leland Industries in Scarborough touting his election platform, "People's Guarantee."

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Patrick Brown’s feint to the left will cheer Red Tories in his Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. But history shows it may not be enough to put him in the premier’s chair.

Brown is riding high after launching his election platform this week. Titled the “People’s Guarantee” it bears an uncanny resemblance to the platform that Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals used to win power nationally.

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It would lower taxes for middle income earners and small businesses, introduce a new child care benefit and have the government play a more active role in social policy.

Like the Trudeau platform, it is unusually casual about deficits and, indeed, promises to temporarily put the province’s finances back into the red.

While savagely critical of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, it borrows shamelessly from her playbook.

Like the Wynne Liberals, the Brown Tories would lower electricity rates by sleight of hand — using money that already belongs to taxpayers to subsidize residential hydro bills.

While they would delay Wynne’s plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, they would not reverse it.

They would keep the Wynne Liberals’ modest pharmacare program and introduce a very rudimentary form of denticare for the elderly poor.

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Polls show Patrick Brown is the odds-on favourite to be Ontario’ s next premier — but can he hang on to his Progressive Conservative base while also appealing Since winning the PC leadership, Partrick Brown has tried to drag his party back to the centre of Ontario politics — which some PCs resent.

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For all of this, Brown has been lauded by the tribunes of the centre left. His platform has been compared to that of former premier Bill Davis, the last Red Tory to govern Ontario.

In fact, if all Ontario Tory voters were red, Brown would be virtually guaranteed victory in the next provincial election, scheduled for June.

But as a former PC leader named John Tory found out to his chagrin, not all Ontario Tories are red.

Tory is now Toronto mayor. But in 2007, he was seen as the man who could return the Ontario PC party to its Red Tory roots — and to power.

The reigning assumption then was that the PCs, having taken a brief detour to the hard right under former premier Mike Harris, were ready to take up their traditional centrist role again.

Tory, a former Davis aide, was seen as the one who could do the job. His plan for public funding of all faith-based schools was seen to be the vehicle.

But Tory forgot how divided his party was over the school funding issue. Some PC voters thought the idea of publicly funded Jewish or Muslim schools just fine. But many did not.

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Tory faced grumbling in his caucus. Two weeks before the election, that grumbling turned into open revolt.

He tried to backpedal on the funding issue to appease voters on the right of his party. But it was too late. The PCs were clobbered. The Liberals under Dalton McGuinty, who had gone into the election campaign as a weakened force, emerged with a second majority government.

The Conservatives, convinced that Red Toryism no longer worked, chose the ill-fated Tim Hudak, a Mike Harris acolyte, as their new leader,

Can Brown avoid John Tory’s fate? Will right-of-centre Conservatives accept the Trudeauesque package released this week? Or will they stay at home on voting day? Will enough PC voters migrate to minor groupings, like the Christian Heritage Party or Trillium Party to make a difference?

Can Brown manage his own party?

Certainly, he has had his troubles. Social conservatives used to support him. But now, after he shifted his position on same-sex marriage, abortion and sex education, many shun him.

He has also had difficulty navigating the reefs and shoals of the Ontario PCs. All political leaders run into trouble in some local nomination races as they try to balance electability against democracy. But Brown has been unusually prone to this. He has faced embarrassing controversy in at least six nomination battles.

In one case, an entire riding executive resigned to protest the direction their party was taking. In another, police are investigating allegations of ballot-box stuffing.

Ontario Conservatives of all hues may hold their noses and come together behind Brown’s centrish platform — simply to get rid of Wynne. But they are an obstreperous breed. In the end, many may not.

Thomas Walkom appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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