Conservative leadership hopeful visits here

While the federal election is over, the Ontario Progressive Conservative party is preparing for another one: that of its leader on Sept. 18.
Former Premier Ernie Eves announced he would step down as party leader shortly after Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals swept to power in last October’s provincial election.
The three candidates vying to replace Eves are MPP Jim Flaherty, MPP Frank Klees, and John Tory, former president and CEO of Rogers Inc.
Tory, touring Northern Ontario last week, was invited to attend a meeting of the Kenora-Rainy River PC riding association at Little Moose Lodge north of Emo.
Tory said he’s heard the concerns of the north during his visits here.
“Young people are leaving,” he noted. “There are a lot of people who’ve left Northern Ontario simply because there are not the job opportunities available to them that match the education they have.
“The first order of business has to be to determine how we restore some degree of economic development,” he stressed.
Tory said he would develop a long-term plan to help the north grow and prosper.
That plan “includes a favourable tax regime to encourage investment, it includes government decentralization,” he explained.
“It includes infrastructure investment so that you have the Trans-Canada highway widened, both because it’s safe and because people are being killed, but also because it will help encourage commercial traffic and tourism traffic,” he added.
Government has been guilty of “ad hoc, knee-jerk reactions,” Tory argued, rather than establishing a plan to deal with the north.
“I don’t think you can rebuild a region . . . without a meaningful, long-term plan. You just can’t do it with ad hockery,” he reasoned.
Tory also said he would “sit down with stakeholders in the north: tourism operators, municipal leaders, teachers,” and ask them what their concerns are.
“I’m not a career politician. It allows me to have a fresh start,” he noted.
Tory is the only one of the three candidates running for the PC leadership who does not hold elected office. But Tory has been a member of, and volunteer for, the party for 35 years.
While he has a great deal of respect for the other candidates, Tory said he is different in a number of ways.
“They supported and were at the cabinet table when the provision to cause referenda to occur in municipalities when they want to increase taxes was brought about.
“I don’t support that,” he remarked.
While there are a few differences in policy, one of the main ones is in the approach to government, Tory said.
“I tend to be someone who really focuses a lot on bringing people together and creating partnerships,” he explained.
The goal, he said, is to have a strong party that can win the next election four years from now.
Tory also said there needs to be a change in how decisions are made in government.
“We need to start making decisions in government that bear more of an imprint of the people that are affected,” he noted.
“There are far too many decisions being made in buildings far away by people who have never visited the people, never sat with the people, never listened to the people that are affected by those decisions, be they small business people or northerners or fishermen.
“That leads to bad decisions, it leads to angry, frustrated people, and it leads to very inefficient government,” he stressed.
Regarding the health premiums resurrected by the Liberal government last month, Tory said there are many problems with that decision.
“First, it was in direct violation of a promise [McGuinty] had made,” he noted.
Tory was adamant politicians should not make promises they can’t keep, saying McGuinty would have been better off to campaign on the platform of introducing health premiums, or should have held a referendum during the budget process.
Now, Ontarians are paying three times for health care, he remarked—once through the employer health tax, once through the provincial health surtax, and now through health premiums.
“Not only are you paying a third time, but you’re getting less for your money,” Tory added, citing the de-listing of optometry, chiropractic, and physiotherapy services.
“That’s one equation that would never work, in government or in business.”
Tory’s visit made an impression on the riding association members.
“I was pleased he made the extra effort to come as far into the north as he did,” noted Cathe Hoszowski, president of the riding association and co-owner of the Little Moose Lodge as well as the local PC candidate in last October’s provincial election.
“He seems to have a very good grasp of how business practices could be incorporated into government, and that’s refreshing to hear,” she added.