If John Tory is looking for where to begin in his attempt to win back the support of the Party, he need look no further... he can start right here, with me.
I was one of the 433 members who, despite all their concerted efforts, despite all their stage managing of the whole event to ensure their victory, and despite their use of every Party resource available to them in their attempt to hang on to the reigns, still voted for a leadership review.
Here's a quick summary of what I saw this weekend... in the week before the vote, I got three official letters from the Party, basically begging me not to support a review. Then when I got there, I saw a major machine, with lots of the Party brass and organizers, working hard to ensure their victory. I saw major investments of time, energy, and Party resources, trying to secure the delegates against a review. I saw a lot of ignorance of what was really going on, and even saw several people, mostly older folks, interestingly enough, trying to prevent any other voices from being heard. I saw the Leader given the opportunity to speak to all the delegates in their regional breakfasts, with no chance for anyone from the YES side to offer a different perspective. I even saw one older lady walk up to a young YES supporter, with a torn up piece of YES literature and throw it at him, angry at the very suggestion that "her leader" should be questioned. I saw NO supporters seeking to stiffle differing opinions by gathering up our liturature, and attempting to hide it, while we showed them only respect. I saw the NO team use every advantage available to them via their official Party status, and used their privilaged access to manipulate delegates by putting their literature, suggesting that the Ontario Liberals supported a leadership review, on each and every table in the ballroom right before lunch... while YES supporters were barred from entering the room and placing their liturature on the tables. (oh, you guys actually thought that we didn't clue into that little trick?) I saw them rig the agenda, so Mr. Tory gave his speech immediately prior to the vote, while the opportunity to question the leader from the floor was scheduled AFTER the voting had taken place. And I saw one region, Toronto, once again seeking to impose their will on the rest of the Party membership. All in all, it was a pretty disgusting scene.
Despite all that, a full 33.1% chose to call for a leadership review. That may not sound like a lot, but I'd like you to consider who does, and more importantly, who is NOT, included in those numbers. From my view on the ground at the convention, there were two groups, two significant groups, who supported Tory's NO side. The thing is, it's these very same two groups who have been, in my opinion, the main problem in the Party for some time now. It's also my opinion that these individuals are the very same ones who's views and opinions cost us the election back in October. Via their "stacking of the deck", as you might call it, this weekend, they served to only reinforce the views of most of the grassroots that this Party no longer represents our views.
Just who are these two groups, you ask? Well, first of all, you have the current folks running the Party, many of whom recieved automatic delegate status. The second group, who I think ended up swaying things the most this weekend, were the Toronto delegates... the so-called "Toronto Tories for Tory", as their buttons identified them.
Just stop and think about these two groups for just a second. Firstly, the Party apperatus that were automatic delegates, well, many of them were the same folks who were working for and with Mr. Tory's disasterous election campaign last year. And the second group, the "Toronto Tories", well, they're the folks who keep on demanding a more "moderate" platform in an effort to secure votes in Toronto.
Well, here's a bit of a shocking newsflash... there is a world, and a whole lot of seats, outside of the GTA folks. Your views aren't winning us any support outside of the "Centre of the Universe", nor did they even manage to win us a single seat in the entire 416. Meanwhile, the overwhelming number of Toronto delegates were in support of the NO side, against having a leadership review.
So, here's the thing... if you take these two core groups out of the numbers, what would things have looked like? My best guess, is that the numbers would have been almost reversed.
The VAST majority of people I met from outside of the GTA were supportive of a leadership review. These are the folks who live in ridings where our traditional base lives... the people who didn't bother to show up at the polls last October.
The problem is, and let's face it folks, the "grassroots" are no longer with Tory. I can't personally say that I'm against Tory... the fact of the matter is, he's still the best guy I know of for the job. But by snubbing them this weekend, and refusing to heed the call for a review, he did EXACTLY what the grassroots have been accusing him and his team of doing for so long... refusing to listen to the folks who form the core of the Ontatio PC Party.
There's one example from this weekend that will stick with me for a long time, that embodies the exact kind of arrogance and ignorance that I'm talking about... I wish I'd looked closer at his name tag. He was a gentleman in his sixties, maybe early seventies, and for some reason, I got the impression he was from the GTA. (I don't recall what riding he was from) Well, for the sake of argument, I'll call him "Sinclair", after good old Sinclair Stevens, the good old boy who refused to move on when the two Federal parties merged in 2003. As myself and another YES delegate were talking and handing out literature on the convention floor, he and his wife walked up to us and said, point blank, "I just want you guys to realize that if you win, we're gone."
We asked him to clarify what he meant by that, and he reiterated, that if the YES side won, he and his wife "are finished with the Party."
And then, get this, he accused us, ACCUSED ME, of being anti-Christian and anti-Semetic for supporting the YES side!!! They walk away, and we just look at each other, completely stunned and what's just happened. So, anyway, being the consiliatory kind of person that I am, and to listen to what exactly his concerns were, I went off after him to ask him why he thought that. Totally honest, I wasn't being at all confrontational, I was letting him do all the talking. Anyway, I asked him why he felt that way, and he looks me in the eye, and says, "Excuse me, but... PUFF OFF!!!"
(no kidding, that's exactly what he said) We're surrounded by dozens of people, and I try to explain to him who I am, and that I'm a devout Christian and strong supporter of Israel and the Jewish people, and he's screaming at me, "THAT'S B... S...!!! B... S...!!! B... S...!!!"
, and then just storms off into the crowd.
Reminded me of a saying... "The adult mind is a lot like concrete... all mixed up and firmly set."
Anyway, that gentleman epitomizes the problems that exist within the Ontario PC Party, and why Mr. Tory's rejection of a leadership review has already doomed us in the next election. Those in power, and who "won" the vote on Saturday, have chosen to ignore the will of a great number of the grassroots. Mr. Tory, in his speech right before the vote, promised to listen to the grassroots in rebuilding the Party. He then promptly rejected their strong suggestion that he undergo a leadership review. One in which, quite frankly, I expected he would run in, and could very well win... IF he was able to win back the grassroot members that he and his supporters have so aptly alienated over this last year.
A week before the vote, I got a personal phone call from Mr. Tory. I missed the call, but he left a message, in which he asked me if I had any concerns that I would like to address with him before the convention. Well, here's my suggestion... start working that phone list again, Mr. Tory. That very same list, and keep working it, personally, until you speak to each and every one of those people in person. Obviously, I'll be one of those names, and I'll give you my thoughts on what you need to do to win back the Party... because many of us are not with you right now.
I'll give you an example of what you're facing... my own wife, a strong and hard-core conservative, didn't vote for you in the last election. If you can't win her back, I don't think you have a hope in 2011. And as of this moment, even though you had my vote in October, you wouldn't have it if the election were held tomorrow. Good thing is though, you've got almost three years to win us back... so get cracking.
If our 33.1% is not heeded and won back before the election, you may be able to claw back a few more seats, but you won't be able to win the next election. If the 33.1% of your dedicated volunteers, fundraisers, and supporters remain ignored, they'll either sit on their hands or actively work against you in the next election, and you'll be finished, once and for all.
I'm getting a little deja vu here. Folks, it's 1993 all over again... and it's the same guy, doing exactly the same things, and running us into the ground, no less.
It's time to get to work, Mr. Tory. I'm waiting for the phone to ring.
Labels: Not a Leader, Queen's Park