Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tim Hudak Charts His Course Forward

Includes Elliott, Klees in shadow cabinet

While the lack of emotional fireworks during the recent Ontario Progressive Conservative party leadership campaign hardly belied it, deep issues were at stake in the contest.

More than merely the privilege to decide what the party's policy on issues such as the Ontario Human Rights Commission will be, the battle for the Ontario PC leadership was, to some, a debate over the soul of the party itself.

Whatever direction the Ontario Tories move in from here, it is self-evident that the soul of the party is largely intact.

When Hudak recently released his shadow cabinet, he found room in it for all three of his leadership opponents.

Christine Elliott -- who many had pegged as the top threat to Hudak's leadership hopes -- has been named the party's critic for Health and Long-Term Care. She has also been made the deputy leader of the party.

Frank Klees -- who wound up actually being the top threat to Hudak's leadership hopes -- has been named the party's critic for Infrastructure and

The two will often face off against Liberal Ministers David Caplan and Jim Bradley, respectively.

Many eyes in the PC caucus will almost certainly turn to Elliott as she confronts Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government over the eHealth scandal. In June, in the midst of the Tory leadership campaign, the McGuinty Liberals quietly put the breaks on an external investigation of eHealth. The provincial NDP have recently demanded that investigations continue.

A much more controversial move will likely be Randy Hillier's appointment to be critic of Rural Affairs. This will be in addition to his already-held post of critic of Agriculture and Food.

Hillier has long been known to be a critic of land claims settlements. His new role as the voice of rural Ontarians otherwise not heard by the Ontario government will give the McGuinty Liberals ample opportunity to draw public attention to Hillier's positions on this matter.

No one should expect the Ontario Progressive Conservative party to be able to move forward out of a contentious leadership campaign without its fair share of hiccups. But with the entire slate of leadership candidates accounted for within his shadow cabinet, Tim Hudak has set the stage for the party to move forward unified, as opposed to divided.

It's a wise course to chart.

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