Wednesday, July 08, 2009

But The Problem Is That He Allegedly Is Mike Harris

Tim Hudak's "common sense conservatism" could be his greatest asset, greatest weakness

In an editorial appearing in the Welland Tribune, Kalvin Reid writes that "Tim Hudak must prove he's not Mike Harris":
"It will be a challenge for Hudak to translate that success across the province, but there is no question he is up to the task. The 41-year-old is already dealing with accusations that he is a clone of former premier Mike Harris and will replicate the divisive policies of that regime.

But this is politics, a cutthroat game, and that is to be expected.

Hudak will have to prove to Ontario that he is more pragmatic and, as he said repeatedly during the leadership campaign, a different man in a different time than Harris.
The problem, of course, is that Hudak didn't campaign for the Progressive Conservative leadership under the pretenses that he isn't Mike Harris.

In fact, he ran for the leadership under the pretenses that he was Harris' annointed successor to John Tory.

Hudak may be right to note that Harris, as close to an ideological neoconservative as Canadian politics has to offer, is the last man to have successfully led the Ontario PCs to any sort of election victory at all -- let alone a majority government. Tom Long, who helped Hudak with his leadership campaign, certainly seems to think so.

Moreover, Hudak owes a great deal to Harris. Harris not only issued an emphatic endorsement of Hudak, but also organized behind-the-scenes to help Hudak's victory on a much more practical level.

To think that Hudak would now turn his back on the man who played kingmaker in his ascension to the Ontario Tory leadership is rather absurd.

But many other Ontarians remember Harris rather well. Many of them have been crystal clear about where they stand on Harris' record.

Tim Hudak's "common sense conservatism" -- an obvious take-off of Harris' Common Sense Revolution -- may play well for fiscal and social conservatives in Ontario. It won't play well for those who count themselves among Harris' critics.

But should Hudak decide he wants to prove to Ontarians that he isn't Mike Harris, he will have plenty of time to do it. As Kalvein Reid notes:
"Time is on his side. With a provincial election a little more than a two years away, Hudak has a mulligan. If he pulls off a victory in 2011, great for him and the party. But barring a PC meltdown in that vote, he will get a chance to lead the party into the 2015 election. That is six years to step out of the shadow of the man who first put him in cabinet and carve his own niche in Ontario politics."
But counting on a man who campaigned for the PC leadership on the promise of Harris-style ideological neoconservatism to move to the centre is likely to be a long wait for a ship that never comes.

To think that Tim Hudak will go out of his way to distance himself from Mike Harris simply defies credulity -- even if he probably should.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Sandy Crux - "Attn Tim Hudak: Does “B i l l-177″ thwart trustees?"

Joseph Uranowski - "Career Politician. Intellectual Lightweight. Puppet. Blast From The Past."

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