Credits: CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT/QMI AGENCY
What should have been a good week for Tim Hudak turned into a bad news boondoggle for the PC leader, as he found himself fighting a rearguard action against his own backbenchers.
On Wednesday, three Tory MPPs sponsored a Campaign Life news conference at Queen’s Park that called for the province to stop OHIP funding abortions.
All you could say was, “What were they thinking”?
In politics, abortion is a toxic, divisive no-win debate.
The three backbenchers derailed the launch of the Tories’ long planned “Paths to Prosperity,” that should have put Hudak on the map with his economic growth platform.
With an election almost certain within the next year, Hudak’s going to have to get his caucus under control on issues such as this if he’s to have any hope of winning.
With new revelations that scrapping the Oakville power plant and moving it to eastern Ontario will cost at least $700 million — and not the $40 million the government claims — the Liberals should be on the ropes.
Instead, Hudak seems unable to gain traction — even though he’s come up with planks in his platform that have driven the agenda in this minority government.
It was Hudak who first called for an across-the-board wage freeze. The Liberals had stubbornly clung to their mantra that they couldn’t do it, that it would cause a constitutional challenge.
His plan released last week sounded a bit like the Common Sense Revolution that propelled Mike Harris into the premier’s chair in 1995.
It called for tax cuts. Hudak actually said, “Tax cuts create jobs” — the very message that was at the core of the Harris agenda.
He focused a great deal on Toronto issues — something he needs to do if he wants to make his much needed breakthrough into the GTA.
His plan to upload the TTC and some highways to the province through the Metrolinx agency actually has a lot of merit.
The TTC has become the spoiled brat of transit agencies. It doesn’t play well with others.
The GTA can no longer afford to view itself as a patchwork of municipalities and transit agencies.
Until we can build a region-wide agency where you can use one form of payment across the entire system — from GO Transit, to the TTC to York and Peel Regions — we’ll never have an efficient system.
And Hudak’s clearly aiming to win ridings in Scarborough with his pledge to build subways.
“World class cities build underground,” Hudak said.
Is his plan perfect? Of course not. But he set the agenda on the pay freeze. He could do it on gridlock.
At least in tackling some of the issues that plague the GTA, he’s showing he’s started to awaken to the reality that he must make inroads here if he’s ever going to become premier.
His biggest problem will be keeping his backbench in line on social conservative issues.
Keeping pro-life MPPs under control isn’t just a Tory problem. There are anti-abortionists in the Liberal ranks as well. Premier Dalton McGuinty, however, manages to get his people under control.
Part of the charm of Conservatives is that they are ornery renegades.
Hudak should take a leaf from Harris’ and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s book.
Harris made it clear from the outset he was a fiscal conservative only. Abortion and other in-your-face social issues were off the table.
Harper has successfully managed to keep a lid on his backbenchers who’ve gone down that road.
Hudak needs to have a finger-wagging session with any maverick backbencher who feels like freelancing into areas like abortion.
It won’t win them any votes. And it will only alienate people who don’t like politicians sticking their noses into their private lives.
And a great many of those people are Conservatives.