Ontario Tories need fresh leadership: PC MPP Lisa MacLeod
Ontario voters sent the Progressive Conservative Party a strong message on June 12. Despite the undeniable weaknesses of the Liberal government’s record and its credibility-stretching plan to spend more while still balancing the books, voters returned the Liberals with a majority.
That tells PCs that we let Ontario down by not offering an alternative that more voters were prepared to accept. We have a lot of work to do over the next four years. The party needs renewal, a new direction, and most important, fresh leadership.
For PCs, this is the time to look forward and face those challenges, not to indulge in endless dissection of the 2014 campaign. We must spend our energy preparing for the election in 2018, not refighting the election just past.
The most important decision in front of our party is choosing a new leader. There is no rush to make that choice. It’s more important that we get this right, for our party and for our province. A leadership convention will provide that opportunity.
We need a person who understands urban, suburban and rural concerns, one who gets the complex makeup of this province. In my own riding of Nepean-Carleton, I represent new immigrant communities, expanding suburbs and a large rural area. I also take the lead on the urban issues that affect Ottawa, our second largest city. Nepean-Carleton is a microcosm of the growing and changing Ontario that our party must represent.
Some in the party are looking for a quick decision on a new leader, but the challenge is not just choosing a leader. It is revitalizing our party. If we are to win the next election, the Ontario PC Party must become a broader, bigger, activist organization. It must become a movement for change. Our new leader must have wide support, not just from party elites, but from the members themselves.
A revitalized PC party is important not just for Conservative supporters, but for all Ontarians. Our province needs a party that will offer affordable, practical solutions to improving our health care and our children’s education, and do it within the context of reasonable taxes and a balanced budget.
All major parties agree that we can’t continue to pay for our services with borrowed money. The next few years will show if the Liberals can break their debt dependence. If they cannot, Ontarians will be looking for a party that they can trust to deliver the services we all need, and do it within a sustainable budget supported by an expanding economy.
Our most recent PC platform has been criticized for talking too much about numbers and not enough about people. Fact-based decision making is important, but we can’t overlook the human side. I’m a suburban soccer mom. I care about my child’s school, our local hospital and whether our community is safe, just like so many other Ontarians do.
Ontarians need a party that knows how to make their lives better in measurable ways. For example, the Schools First policy that I put forward as education critic would ensure that schools get built sooner in our rapidly expanding suburbs. Youth mental health and home care for seniors are areas that cry out for real service, not lip service. These two vulnerable groups need more help, and they aren’t getting it.
The 2014 Ontario election campaign will be remembered for its attack ads, and what people felt were a lack of real choices. As a province, we can’t do that again. The PC Party has a responsibility to deliver a strong and broadly acceptable choice the next time. That work starts now. Let’s embrace the challenge and deliver for Ontarians.
Lisa MacLeod is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Nepean-Carleton.