The race to lead the Ontario Conservatives will be interesting not so much because of the candidates but rather the heavy hitters being lined up in support of candidates. So far no one is declared but potential candidates are busy trying to win endorsement from influential Conservatives. So far MPP Tim Hudak, MPP Christine Elliott, MPP Frank Klees, federal Human Resource Minister Diane Finley, federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, and OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino are all said to be checking out the landscape in terms of important endorsements and money. Stephen Harper is concerned enough about the impact of the
Family ties are almost as important in the potential race. Diane Finley is the
daughter wife of Doug Finley who is Stephen Harper’s campaign manager. Obviously his involvement in a leadership campaign would be significant. Chistine Elliott is married to federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. With the kind of power Flaherty wields right now, one has to be wary of endorsing a rival candidate. Tim Hudak is a former Mike Harris cabinet minister and married to Harris’ former chief of staff Deb Hutton. Harris is remains the darling of the party’s right wing and eager to push Hudak’s candidacy.
I’m not sure if any of the contenders are centrist candidates in the vein of a John Tory. The party seems intent to swing back to the right in order to duplicate Harris’ success and to provide a true alternative to Premier Dalton McGuinty. As well, I expect the party would also be wary of picking someone who doesn’t already have a seat in the Ontario Legislature after the disastrous attempts by Tory to win a seat. So I don’t expect Finley, Van Loan, and Fantino to seriously challenge even if the decide to actually enter the race. That leaves Hudak, Elliott and Klees. Klees is a PC caucus chair and a former leadership candidate. However, I don’t see Klees being able attract the heavy hitters with Harris and Flaherty actively soliciting support for their candidates.
So this will most likely come down to Hudak and Elliott and I preliminary view is that Hudak wins this one.