Let Cambridge be Cambridge
There are a few hard truths that Ontario Progressive Conservative officials need to know about Cambridge if they hope to win there in the next provincial election. It’s different from other Ontario cities. It has its own identity, is fiercely independent and expects to control its own destiny.
One other thing: It doesn’t like outsiders telling it what to do.
If the PC brass understand all this, they’ll tread carefully in the race to choose the next Tory candidate in Cambridge.
Many of the Progressive Conservative faithful in the city suspect that party officials are trying to parachute into the riding a candidate from Alberta — an allegation the party firmly denies.
Yet those local concerns are real and intensified earlier this month when party officials suddenly announced on a Friday that all nomination papers had to be filed by the following Tuesday.
Riding association members complained the deadline was a month earlier than expected and was limiting the field of candidates.
As the controversy heated up, party headquarters wisely scrapped the September deadline and allowed more time for hopeful candidates to step forward. The new deadline for nominations has not been set. But there are lingering worries the party somehow favours Tanya Khattra, a dentist who lives and works in Calgary.
Paul Brown, a former Cambridge city council candidate, was a contender in the riding’s PC nomination.
While he cited personal reasons for bowing out of the race, he said he’s troubled by Khattra’s candidacy.
Perhaps that’s because on her candidate’s application, Khattra listed an address on Newport Drive in Cambridge as her home.
But until recently, she’s had no history of residency or political involvement in Waterloo Region.
None of this means, of course, that high-ranking officials at Progressive Conservative headquarters are pulling strings to get her nominated.
Progressive Conservatives in Cambridge should realize that if she meets the party’s qualifications Khattra has a right to run to become the city’s MPP. She deserves to be judged on her merits. She might emerge as the party’s best option.
As for the top PC provincial officials and party leader Patrick Brown, their best course of action is to let Cambridge Tories sort this out.
Of course, the leader possesses the power to personally select the riding’s candidate. But if that should ever be the plan, it should be done openly. Moreover it would almost certainly damage the party’s chances to regain the seat it held before the last election in 2014.
Some communities might be comfortable with a candidate handpicked by a party’s leaders. Cambridge? Not likely. As we said earlier, it’s different, the product of the amalgamation of Galt, Preston and Hespeler more than 40 years ago.
People living north of Highway 401 — except in the Hespeler part of the city — are generally considered outsiders.
Even though Cambridge is part of Waterloo Region, it often resents decisions made at regional headquarters in Kitchener.
It’s unlikely Cambridge voters would react more kindly to a decision made by PCs in Toronto.