On Tim Hudak: The Reins of Power and the Reign of Terror
May 20, 2011 by Paul McKeever
With a poll a few months ago suggesting the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (“PC”) was ahead of the provincial Liberals, PC leader Tim Hudak has avoided putting out any plank that could stir any voter’s passions in a negative way. However, the media have (rightly) complained that Hudak owes the Ontario voter an election platform. With the release today of a plank on electricity bills, a disturbing pattern is emerging. If the pattern holds, Ontario had better hope to hell that Hudak’s PCs are not the ones chosen to replace Dalton McGuinty’s faltering Liberals in the October 6, 2011 provincial election.
Though the media has not noticed it – or, at least, they have not mentioned it – Hudak’s pattern has been to eke out a musing or a plank only as a means of diverting the media away from reporting stories that would harm his party’s standing in the polls. In chronological order, here’s a brief account of the three main Hudak diversions to date:
On Thursday, February 3, 2011, Liberal Health Minister Deb Matthews gave a speech to a nurses group, in which she asserted that the PCs would scrap the Ontario Health Premium. The response from PC MPP Sylvia Jones was rapid and unequivocal, as she called various media outlets to deny Matthews’ assertion. She told the Globe and Mail: “Getting rid of the health-care premium is not an option…We have no intention of getting rid of the health-care premium”.
That was a Thursday. Now, imagine, if you will, the earful that PC leader Tim Hudak must have received over the weekend from PC members and supporters. Of all of the many violations imposed upon Ontario by Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, the health premium constitutes arguably the biggest and most passionately symbolic lie of all. It was imposed very shortly after the 2003 election campaign in which McGuinty had promised not to raise taxes “one penny”, yet the PCs now were taking the position that “cutting the health-care premium is not [even] an option”)!?
Naturally, Hudak went into damage control mode first thing Monday morning (February 7). He told the media that, no, no, Joyce’s calls to the media – together with the reported February 3rd Hudak media release titled “Minister of Health Lies to Nurses” which called Matthews a “liar” – were somehow incorrect: “all options” are on the table, he explained. The “liar” wasn’t a liar at all, apparently, though no apology was forthcoming from Hudak.
The result: the online mainstream media immediately began printing news reports that Hudak has “flip-flopped” (even the PC-loyal Toronto Sun got in on calling Hudak a flip-flopper: see here). In short, things were bad.
In response, later that day, Hudak attempted to ensure that the physical newspapers and the radio talk shows weren’t full, the next day, with reports that Hudak is a flip-flopper on the very issue upon which McGuinty flip-flopped. Specifically, to divert attention from his health premium flip-flop, he openly mused that “Many folks, myself included, look forward to that $24 two-four on the May 24 weekend…That is now something that has passed under Dalton McGuinty.” Of course, he did not promise to do anything about beer prices, but hopeful media everywhere dutifully drew the unnecessary inference that Hudak fully expected they would carelessly draw: that Hudak would make buck-a-beer possible.
The next day (February 8, 2011), the textual news and talk radio were talking about buck-a-beer Hudak, not flip-flop Hudak. (An aside: Freedom Party, which I lead, had released a similar “Eliminate Beer and Wine Taxes” plank on December 20, 2010…we didn’t just muse about it, we promised to knock as much as $5.76 off of the price of a case of beer…which would not be achieved, incidentally, by lowering the minimum price of beer because most beers are already priced above the minimum price). Hudak’s media diversion worked: Hudak promised nothing, the mainstream media got played by the PCs, and the PCs minimized the impact of the discovery that Hudak is a health premium flip-flopper of McGuinty proportions.
During the 2009 Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership race (to replace the outgoing John Tory), Randy Hillier promised that, if he were chosen to be the next PC leader, a PC government would eliminate the Human Rights “Commission” (NOTE: he was referring, in fact, to the Human Rights Tribunal…the Commission never was a trier of human rights cases: until the summer of 2008, it acted as a party to human rights complaints, but its role since the summer of 2008 has been largely educational and complainant-support oriented). Hillier’s opposition to the HRC/T was founded upon an erroneous belief that the Ontario Human Rights Code contained a provision like section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act: a federal Act that, in effect, violates ones freedom to speak even the truth when the truth is deemed sufficiently hurtful (NOTE: the federal provision, and a similar provision in the Alberta human rights regime, had been widely criticized because complaints had been made about Mclean’s Magazine – which published excerpts from Mark Steyn’s book “America Alone”, and (then) Ezra Levant’s Western Standard magazine – which published the famous Danish Muhammad cartoons).
With the majority of the PC membership in fact being red (i.e., socialist) Tories, a libertarian like Hillier never had a chance of winning the leadership. Seeing that, Hudak decided to scoop Hillier’s supporters by assuming Hillier’s position on Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal. Like Hillier, he vowed to scrap it. That vow was considered, by many, to be widely responsible for his winning of the PC leadership.
Fast forward, now, to May 5, 2011. That day, the Globe and Mail’s Adam Radwanski wrote a column titled “Hudak backtracks on pledge to axe human-rights tribunal“. Radwanski reported that, “in the midst of an otherwise unremarkable stump speech” to the Nepean Chamber of Commerce, Hudak “…jettisoned his past pledge to rely only on the courts system to enforce the province’s human-rights code”.
The story immediately grew legs. One day later (Friday, May 6), Ezra Levant himself – on his new SunTV show, The Source – grilled his guest, Randy Hillier, about the Hudak human rights flip-flop. (The video is still available on-line [see below], and is a must-see event for anyone who considers him/herself politically aware in this province). Levant had asked Hudak to appear, he explained, but Hudak had been too cowardly to come on the show, so sent Hillier to do the dirty work of somehow explaining Hudak’s flip-flop. It was bloody. Hillier flailed. There was only one word fitting for the effect of that interview upon Hudak and the PCs: devastating.
The beating continued, however, the following Tuesday. On May 10, 2011, a Toronto Star headline read “McGuinty calls Hudak on human rights flip-flop”. Hudak’s response, again, was to create a media diversion. That same day, Hudak suddenly announced that he would kill the “$7B sweetheart deal” (a phrase that falsely implies that the cost to the taxpayer is $7B…$7B is what Samsung will invest, whereas the deal involves an “adder” of a bit over $400M). The “deal” was one the Ontario government has with Samsung for the construction of wind and solar power generation facilities. Hudak added that he would end the Feed-in Tariff program…but would not cancel existing FIT contracts with the thousands of farmers who are being paid up to 80 cents for electricity worth about 4 cents on the free market: unlike Samsung, farmers vote, and they naturally tend to live in rural – read PC-friendly – ridings.
Of course, Hudak hasn’t even read the contract he was vowing to scrap. Like everyone else except the McGuinty government, he has no idea what financial penalties might be left in the taxpayer’s lap for canning the deal and, apparently, he does not care (or worse: cannot foresee) that a government that dishonours contracts tends to lose its ability to find companies foolish enough to enter into future contracts. Breaking the contract with Samsung while honouring FIT contracts with Ontario voters would be not only hypocritical, but also reckless and destructive of the Ontario government’s credibility going forward. However, that didn’t matter to Hudak because his announcement had had its desired effect: all talk of Hudak’s Human Rights flip-flop had been displaced by reports about Hudak’s Samsung plank. He had successfully pwned the mainstream media again…even after having walked away from them while they asked him for details about his announcement. Specifically, the Toronto Sun’s Christina Blizzard reported:
Hudak also failed to shine.
He walked away from reporters as they pressed him about the message this would send to international investors.
Two days ago, the Ottawa Citizen’s Lee Greenberg broke the news that Citizen columnist Randall Denley would seek the PC nomination for the riding of Ottawa West – Nepean. Later that day, the Toronto Star reported that an angry Ade Olumide – another candidate for Ottawa West—Nepean PC nomination – complained that PC party brass had contacted him in an effort to get him to rescind his candidacy for the nomination. Yesterday, another Star report quoted Olumide as saying that “I was informed (Tuesday) night by the president of the Ontario PC Party in writing that I will not be allowed to contest the party nomination in Ottawa West Nepean”. It quoted one PC member as referring to the PC’s sidelining of member-chosen candidates as a “reign of terror”. The same thing has played itself out in other ridings, including Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, where Hudak gave CHCH TV’s Donna Skelly the nod (PC members resigned as a result).
Hudak’s response to damaging criticism over the candidate flap followed his demonstrated modus operandi: yesterday afternoon, it was announced that Hudak would release a major election plank on the morning of May 19, 2011 (i.e., today). He did so. The plank had two parts, each being planks already released by other Ontario political parties, without public outrage or rejection. Specifically, lifting a plank released October 12, 2010 by Freedom Party, Hudak announced that the Debt Retirement Charge (imposed by the Progressive Conservatives under Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, while Hudak was a PC MPP) would be removed from hydro bills. Lifting a plank released September 27, 2010 by the provincial NDP, Hudak said he’d not charge the 8% provincial portion of the HST on electricity bills. Time will tell, but I put my money on the next few days being consumed by columns not about candidate selection, but about the wisdom (or, rather, the lack thereof) of exempting electricity from the HST, rather than, say, reducing taxes on production instead (e.g., the health premium, income taxes). In other words: watch, as the media get played yet again.
Should all of Hudak’s media manipulation and victimization of colleagues matter to the Ontario voter? Absolutely. In fact, his character with respect to these manipulations is far more important – and has far more wide-reaching implications – than any particular little plank he might put out between now and election day. The main implications of his conduct are:
- Tim Hudak is – on key issues – every bit as much of a flip-flopper as Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty. However, unlike McGuinty, he is too cowardly to face the public and justify his flip-flops. McGuinty, it will be remembered, actually put out a commercial in an attempt to justify his 2003 flip-flop on the health premium. In contrast, Hudak preferred to divert the public’s attention from his own health premium flip-flop by musing openly (but promising nothing) about buck-a-beer, and he sent Randy Hillier out to take a beating for him with respect to his (Hudak’s) broken promise on the Human Rights Tribunal.
- Tim Hudak has no intention of governing on principle should the public be lured into filling the inevitable Liberal vacancies with PC MPPs. Is it right or is it wrong to impose a health premium? Is it right or wrong to keep the Ontario Human Rights Tribunals in service? Is it right or wrong to trump the will of ones own party members in the candidate nomination process? Rather than giving the public answers, Hudak is choosing to do everything he can to divert their attention. Moreover, his willingness to present Freedom Party and NDP planks as his own came only after his own internal polling suggested that the Freedom Party and NDP planks are both popular. Popularity – not rationality – is the guiding star of the Hudak ship.
- Tim Hudak will gladly sacrifice honesty, integrity, accountability, colleagues, and even the credibility of the Ontario government if it will get the voters to hand him and the PCs the reins of power.
The biggest problem is this: in the long term, people – voters, the private sector, the bond rating agencies, and even the journalists – eventually get wise to such manipulative diversions, flip-flops, sacrifices, etc.. They stop getting duped. And when the person attempting to dupe them is the Chief Executive Officer (i.e., the Premier) of the province of Ontario, the wisening of the formerly-duped results in all Ontarians suffering the consequences. We, the public, all get told by the Premier and his soldiers that we – not the Premier – are wrong (or worse, that we are “liars”). We all become Olumides, being punished for playing by the rules, so as to make way for people with political connections and pull. We all become Hilliers, forced to take a beating for the misdeeds of the Premier.
I close with these words…mark them: A man will wield the reins of power in the same manner he obtains them. God help us all if our neighbours hand those reins to Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives. The time for journalists, voters, and the private sector to grow wise to Hudak’s deceptions and abuses is now. If we wait until after October 6, 2011, it will be too late.