Storm clouds over Patrick Brown’s summer
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
This should be the summer of optimism for Patrick Brown and his Progressive Conservative party.
The Wynne Liberals remain stuck in second place. The PCs remain thin on policy, but Brown continues to ride high in the polls. His summer barbecue circuit is going well. The photo ops look good. So why the air of anxiety?
The problem is within Brown’s own party, a fractious coalition of social conservatives, progressives, economic conservatives and a sprinkling of libertarians. He is not running it smoothly. And most significantly, he is being branded as dishonest by a growing number of members. Social conservatives are angry Brown has flip-flopped on things like carbon tax and sex education. A growing number say he cannot be trusted.
But the most worrisome thing for Tories has to be the internecine warfare around nominations for the coming election. Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas candidate Vikram Singh is taking the party to court saying he was cheated out of victory by Brown officials. His case will be heard early next month. Damningly, party president Rick Dykstra authored an affidavit about the fight, which says in part: “The nomination meeting is not determinative of who will ultimately be listed on the ballot as the PC Party candidate …” Technically true, but how does that look to supporters of Brown’s big blue tent?
It’s worse in Ottawa West-Nepean, where veteran party volunteer Carlos Naldinho is outraged by what he calls “outright corruption” in nomination battles. So much so that Naldinho has said he will work to defeat Brown’s party. He’s not alone.
Party stalwart and former senator, Marjory LeBreton, has gone public alleging dirty tricks stole that nomination from local favourite Jeremy Roberts and gave it to Karma Macgregor, the mother of one of Brown’s closest advisers. LeBreton is not a good enemy to have.
Neither is Marilyn Mushinski, cabinet minister under Mike Harris, who told CBC after another scandalplagued nomination meeting in Scarborough: “I think it would be an absolute disaster if Patrick Brown became the next premier of the province.”
Add to all this, rogue MPP Jack MacLaren has joined the Trillium Party and promises to steal votes. And there are rumblings about a more moderate faction within the PCs, socially liberal but against a carbon tax, who might break out and bleed more voters.
Why is all this happening now, with the election campaign more pressing by the day? Bad luck? Or is it more likely that Brown isn’t up to holding together this shaky collective? If Brown can’t pull it together, and soon, he risks handing the Liberals a gift even they couldn’t have foreseen just a few months ago.