Credits: Toronto Sun/Antonella Artuso
TORONTO — The white lights on the Christmas tree outside Tim Hudak's office at Queen's Park twinkle merrily.
Not that the PC leader is taking much time off. In contrast to the absentee Liberal landlords, Hudak's been rolling out controversial policies in advance of an election that's expected soon after Liberals pick a new leader Jan. 26.
"I'm feeling very good about the response we've been getting as I've been laying out a very clear Conservative alternative on jobs, on government spending, on what businesses government should be in and what the private sector can do," Hudak told QMI Agency.
The lack of leadership is frustrating for voters, he said.
"I think it's engaging a lot of voters, particularly because we've had about 14 months now of drift.”
The policy blitz is a result of lessons learned in last year's election. With a commanding lead in the polls, the PCs ran a traditional front-runner's campaign.
"I did a heck of a good job coming across as the prosecutor against the (Premier Dalton) McGuinty record instead of presenting our own plan clearly," he said. "In many senses, I was auditioning for Opposition leader and that's what I ended up getting."
Hudak criticized McGuinty's decision to shut down the legislature as he announced his resignation. The inertia is making it more difficult for the province to get its finances under control, he said.
"To top it all off, the Liberals walked off the job in mid-October and that's going to make it more challenging to climb out of the hole when we do come back," Hudak said.
On a positive note, McGuinty's resignation was good for Tory fundraising. As soon as the premier quit, money started to roll in ahead of an anticipated election.
A recent PC dinner in Toronto raised $1.3 million with another major fundraiser slated for the spring. The Tories have already nominated around 90 candidates.
Hudak said his plan is not just about changing government; it's about taking government in a different direction. He said the province has lost its way.
"It seems we've sunk to mediocrity at best and there's no plan to get us out of it," he said.
It's just not good enough that the province that once led the country is now seeking hand-outs from other provinces, Hudak said.
He doesn't see his plans to privatize the LCBO and casinos as controversial.
Last week's announcement by GM that they're moving Camaro production from Oshawa to Lansing, Mich., bolsters Hudak's support of anti-union legislation.
Days earlier, Michigan enacted controversial “right-to-work" legislation that Hudak has said he'll pursue.
"We're putting ideas on the table. I know they're causing some debate, I wouldn't consider them controversial. But they're getting Ontario back in the lead again — not with our hand out to other provinces for equalization payments," he said.
QMI Agency asked the PC leader if he'd like to handicap the Liberal leadership. Which candidate would he rather run against?
"I guess Gerard Kennedy has a bit of an alibi, but the rest of them have been at the cabinet table for some time.
"Dalton McGuinty couldn't have invoked the policies he did that caused the damage to our fiscal reputation and our economy without their help and their votes," Hudak said.
Hudak does plan to take some time off over Christmas. He'll spend time at his Niagara farm with wife, Deb Hutton, and daughter, Miller, 5.
Miller has her heart set on a new Baby Alive.
"She has one that eats and then soils its diapers and for some reason this is attractive," Hudak laughed. Miller also wants a Dance Wii — although the proud dad isn't sure his dancing skills are going to allow him to keep up with her.