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Ontario Progressive Conservative Party

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Template:Infobox Canada Political Party

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party (PC Party of Ontario, also known as "Tories") is a right-of-centre political party in Ontario, Canada. It has been in power for a majority of the time since Confederation, and governed without interruption from 1943 to 1985. The Ontario PC party was known for many years as "Ontario's natural governing party".

Contents

Origins

The first Conservative Party in Upper Canada was made up of United Empire Loyalists and supporters of the wealthy Family Compact that ruled the colony and opposed responsible government. Once responsible government was granted in response to the 1837 Rebellions, the Tories re-emerged as moderate reformers who opposed the radical policies of the Reformers and then the Clear Grits.

The modern Conservative Party originated in the Liberal-Conservative coalition founded by Sir John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier in 1854. It is a variant of this coalition that formed the first government in Ontario with John Sandfield Macdonald as Premier. After losing power in 1871, this Conservative coalition began to dissolve. What was originally a party that included Catholics and Protestants, became an almost exclusively English and Protestant party, more and more dependent on the protestant Orange Order for support, and even for its leadership. The party became opposed to funding for Separate (Catholic) schools, opposed to language rights for French-Canadians and distrustful of immigrants. Paradoxically, an element of the party gained a reputation for being pro-labour as a result of links between the Orange Order and the labour movement.

The Whitney years

After 33 years in Opposition, the Tories returned to power under James P. Whitney, who led a progressive administration in its development of the province. The Whitney government initiated massive public works projects such as the creation of Ontario Hydro. It also enacted reactionary legislation (such as Regulation 17) against the French-Canadian population in Ontario. The Tories were in power for all but five years from 1905 to 1934. After the death of Whitney in 1914, however, they lacked vision and became complacent. The Tories lost power to the United Farmers of Ontario in the 1919 election but were able to regain office in 1923 election due to the UFO's disintegration and divisions in the Ontario Liberal Party. They were defeated by Mitch Hepburn's Liberals in 1934 due to their inability to cope with the Great Depression.

Post-war dynasty

Bill Davis

Between 1943 and 1985, the party built up a political apparatus that became known as the Big Blue Machine. During much of this time, the party was very centrist, often running to the left of the Ontario Liberal Party. This reached its height under Bill Davis, a Red Tory who was premier of the province between 1971 and 1985.

The anti-Catholic, anti-French, anti-immigrant strain of the Tories was evident under George Drew, who embodied all those elements. Anti-Catholicism became an issue again in the 1971 election, when the Tories under campaigned strenuously against a Liberal proposal to extend funding for Catholic separate schools until grade 13. Davis reversed himself in 1985, and enacted the funding extension as one of his last acts before leaving office.

Following a February 1985 leadership convention, the new party leader and premier, Frank Miller, called an election in which the Conservatives were reduced to a minority. Miller resigned after the Ontario New Democratic Party of Bob Rae reached an agreement with David Peterson's Liberals that allowed the latter to form a minority government with Peterson as Premier. Miller was replaced as leader by Larry Grossman at a second leadership convention.

When the Liberal-NDP Accord expired, an Ontario election|election was held in 1987 in which the Tories were reduced to third place in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario - Grossman was personally defeated in his downtown Toronto riding and resigned immediately. Andy Brandt was the party's interim leader until a leadership election was held in 1990 in which Mike Harris defeated Diane Cunningham.

The Tories failed to improve their standing in the 1990 election under Harris, while the Peterson government was defeated it was at the hands of the NDP who formed a government with Bob Rae as Premier.

"Common Sense Revolution"

Missing image
Mharris.jpg
Mike Harris

In the 1995 election, Harris catapulted his party from third place to an election victory, running on a "Common Sense Revolution" platform, a right wing platform that highlighted a number of "wedge issues" and promised significant tax cuts, cuts to welfare, the introduction of workfare, privatization and other neo-conservative measures. Harris went on to win a second majority in 1999 despite the strikes and protests that plagued his first term in office.

The Harris government was criticized on issues such as health care, the environment, education, and its tax policies, which critics said created the $5 billion dollar deficit which the Conservative party left in its last year in government.

The slide in Conservative support began in early 2000, according to the Ipsos-Reid polling company (Ipsos-Reid website (http://www.ipsos-na.com/news/pressrelease)), when the Tories fell behind the Liberals in the public opinion polls for the first time since the 1999 election, with 36% support of those polled, compared to 42% for the Liberals and 17% for the NDP. Later in 2000, Liberal support rose to about half of those polled, while Conservative support remained in the low 30s. This pattern held through to the 2002 leadership campaign, when Conservative support rose to 37%, while the Liberals retained the support of about half of those polled.

Ernie Eves: Distancing the party from the "Common Sense Revolution"

With the resignation of Mike Harris in 2002, the PCs held a leadership election. Ernie Eves, who had been Harris' Minister of Finance, and who had the backing of almost all PC MPPs, won the campaign.

Eves' rejection of the "Common Sense Revolution" continued after he became premier. He killed plans to sell off Hydro One when deregulation of energy prices resulted in a dramatic increase in energy rates and threatened a consumer revolt. This led him to re-impose retail price controls on electricity, capping the price at 4.3 cents per kilowatt hour, and vowing to keep it capped until at least 2006. The result was a quickly escalating public debt that made up for shortfalls in the price of electricity.

During the summer after Eves’ election as leader, the Conservatives closed the gap in popular support considerably, placing only two percentage points behind the Liberals in two summer public opinion polls. By the autumn of 2002, however, Eves’ ‘honeymoon’ with the voters was over, and the party fell back in the polls, hovering in the mid-to-high 30s, while the Liberals scored in the mid-to-high 40s.

2003 election defeat

Despite his attempt to recast the Tory government as a moderate one, Eves was unable to reverse the slide in the polls the Tories had suffered in the last years of Harris' tenure.

Eves asked Flaherty's campaign chairman, Jamie Watt, to co-manage the Conservative election campaign, along with the rest of the "Whiz Kids" team that had previously worked for Harris. Only Tom Long, the central organizer in Harris' campaigns, refused to work for Eves.

The "Whiz Kids" reputation for competence was marred by publicity stunts such as handing down his government's second budget at the headquarters of Magna International instead of in the provincial legislature. Voter backlash against this break with parliamentary tradition forced the delay of a planned spring election in 2003.

In May of 2003, Eves released the party's platform, dubbed "the Road Ahead". The document promoted an aggressive hard-right agenda, and was closer in spirit to Flaherty's leadership campaign than to Eves' own. In releasing this document, Eves reversed his earlier positions on banning teacher's strikes, jailing the homeless, private school tax credits and same-sex marriage. The platform also called for mortgage interest deductability.

The Conservative election campaign was riddled with mistakes and miscues, and Eves appeared uncomfortable trying to sell a platform he had previously criticised. Conservative television ads which attacked Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty as "still not up to the job" were received poorly by the voting public, and allowed the Liberal campaign to portray the Tories as needlessly confrontational.

A critical point in the campaign was when members of the Eves team jokingly referred to Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty as an "evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet", a comment that made the Conservatives appear desperate to vilify their opponents. In the final days leading up to the vote, Eves was further criticized for saying that McGuinty just says "whatever comes into his pointy little head". On election day, the Conservatives were defeated and reduced to 25 seats in the Legislature.

2004: Eves steps down

In early 2004, Eves announced his intention to step down as leader. A leadership convention to replace him was called for the fall.

Jim Flaherty was the first to enter the race, campaigning on the same hard-right platform as in 2002. He was soon opposed by John Tory, a former executive with Rogers Cable and a Toronto mayoral candidate in 2003, sometimes viewed as a Red Tory due to his association to former Ontario Premier Bill Davis. Member of Provincial Parliament Frank Klees, the third candidate in the race, was a supporter of the Common Sense Revolution and the only candidate to advocate a parallel private health care system.

The 2004 leadership election was held on September 18, 2004, electing John Tory as the party's new leader. Tory, a longtime associate of the PC Party, was elected to the Ontario legislature in a by-election in March, 2005, in the seat that Eves held.

Ontario PC Shadow Cabinet

Leaders of the Conservative Party of Canada West (pre-Confederation)

+ Shared role with Sir John A. Macdonald as joint premiers of the Province of Canada representing Canada West (Ontario).

Leaders of the Conservative Party of Ontario

Leaders of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario

See: Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership conventions

Recent election results

Year of election Candidates elected # of seats available # of votes % of popular vote
1985 52 125 1,343,044 37.0%
1987 16 130 931,473 24.7%
1990 20 130 944,564 23.5%
1995 82 129 1,870,110 44.8%
1999 59 103 1,978,059 45.1%
2003 24 103 1,559,181 34.7%

See also

External link

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