How Not to be Premier

Poor John Tory. It now looks like the Liberals are going to run a fairly capable local candidate against him. The rest of the parties are going to contest this riding as well, including the new far-right Reform Party of Ontario.

Tory is the sort of Conservative leader who, in most respects, I don’t mind. The man comes off as a competent manager and a moderate pragmatist on most issues – in other words he’s worlds better than the ideologues of the Harris years. Were it not for his ill-considered plan to fund religious schools, he might well be in entirely different political circumstances.

Right now though, Tory is in the fight for his political life. If he does not win this by-election, he will be done as a political entity. How did this happen? Well, the aforementioned religious schools scheme certainly didn’t help. There were bigger problems though for Tory. Tory’s failure as a political leader has much more to do with the fact that he wanted to start at the top. He wanted to be mayor of Canada’s largest city, then leader of the PCs of Ontario, then premier. I suppose you have to expect this from someone who is already at the top of the business world (and, let’s face it, was born at the top given his family background).

The problem with this is that Tory has never built much of a constituency or record as a politician. If he decided to work his way up as a city councilor or an MPP he could have built a network of supporters, a record of accomplishment. Instead we have lots of promises of what Tory might do if he gets power and no record of what he has actually done. Instead Tory has expected to go straight to the top everywhere he practices politics. One wonders if this contributes to the ambivalence that his own caucus clearly feels towards him.

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