Storm clouds over Pa­trick Brown’s sum­mer

THE SPEC­TA­TOR’S VIEW

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - Howard El­liott

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.

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