Tories’ policy visions fall far short of ideal
The Ontario Progressive Conservatives look as though they’ll finish nearly two years of deciding what they stand for without much more idea than they had going in.
Next month they’ll study a list of 139 policy resolutions at a convention in Toronto, laying groundwork for the 2018 election campaign. They’re not policy yet, and party policy is not a campaign platform. The Tories started this at an Ottawa convention in late winter 2016, where leader Patrick Brown promised one of the most member-driven policy processes in history.
It’s normal for some resolutions on such lists to be politically suicidal, contradictory, goofy or all of the above. But resolutions do give a sense of where a party’s collective head is at, what virtues it wants to signal.
Resolutions aren’t binding: under Tim Hudak in 2014, the “Million Jobs Plan” that was central to the campaign landed on candidates and activists like a cinder block. Brown has sworn not to repeat that.
It’s not ideal that it’s more a list of vision statements than plans to achieve them.
One thing the Tories will still lack after their policy convention is a climate-change policy. Brown favours pricing carbon pollution through a revenue-neutral carbon tax. That still leaves a lot of questions.
What would the Ontario Tories tax? Would they focus on industry or include gasoline and natural gas? Would the tax be enough to make a difference or just for show? The list of resolutions has zero ideas about this, probably because there’s no Tory consensus that climate change is even a problem.
Perhaps you’d like some insight into Progressive Conservative health-care policy.
“PC Party policy is to ensure better care for dementia patients.” And “PC Party policy is to reduce overcrowding in our hospitals and eliminate hallway health-care by providing Ontarians with prevention programs, more effective access to timely care and better use of our health-care providers.” But how?
There’s nothing about precarious jobs, the “sharing economy,” pensions and retirement.
Climate change, electricity prices, health care and the future of work are some of the central problems any government in Ontario will either have to tackle or consciously decide not to. A big messy policy convention should be the time to hash these things out, listen to everyone, make a decision together. If you’re going to have a family scrap, do it now, not in mid-campaign.
Conservatives are supposed to be the tough but smart ones, in contrast to the Liberals’ wellmeaning loose-pursed incompetence. Time’s starting to run out.