Maybe they should offer free steak knives with the job.
Why does no-one, with the exception of Doug Ford, want to be leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives?
Interim leader Vic Fedeli and new finance critic Lisa MacLeod were the latest potential candidates to rule themselves out Tuesday.
It’s true the party has done a fair imitation of the crack suicide squad from Monty Python’s Life of Brian in recent days.
But, remarkably, it is still well-placed to win the Ontario general election in June. The only poll conducted since Patrick Brown was ousted last week suggests PC support is steady, despite the allegations against its former leader and president. The Forum poll, which gives the PCs a 15 point lead over Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, even suggests one in five voters may be more inclined to back the PCs in June.
But the reluctance to commit by those most familiar with the party speaks volumes about the mess it is in.
The logistical challenge of holding a leadership contest before the end of March and then, almost immediately, launching an election campaign for a June 7 vote are immense.
For example, the Tories can’t create an ad campaign until they know who the new leader is. But if they wait until the end of March to book media space, there will no inventory and the cost will be extortionate.
None of this is likely to matter to Ford, who may be using the provincial leadership race as a dry run for another Toronto mayoral tilt against John Tory.
But it should weigh heavily on other potential candidates like rookies Caroline Mulroney and Rod Phillips.
Given the precariousness of the PC position, the party’s membership would be smart to take a long, hard look at Mulroney, if she runs.
It’s true that there are more than two families in this country capable of providing political leadership. And she probably doesn’t even know herself if she has the skills and knowledge, nerves and brains to be a good leader.
But the early signs are good. At 43, with four young children and a successful career as a lawyer, she has life experience. She garnered good reviews when she hosted the federal Conservative leadership convention last spring, even downplaying the prospect of a career in politics. “Who would want to run for their dad’s old job?” she quipped.
Most important from the party’s point of view, she looks like the candidate best placed to beat Wynne.
To do that the provincial Tories must stay united, they need to have moderate policies that appeal beyond their core voting group and they need to be inclusive, appealing to visible minorities and women.
A Progressive Conservative majority will require married women with children to vote for them in their droves.
A glance at the already released platform suggests everything the party has done thus far has been tailored to appealing to this demographic. It contains a child care refund, new childcare spaces, a caregiver tax credit, reduced hydro bills and a middle class tax cut – all paid for with the proceeds of a carbon tax.
Polls suggest women voters were already warming to the idea of a PC government – typically one in three women said they intended to vote Conservative, versus one in five for the Liberals.
But Mulroney would broaden that appeal further still.
Ford has already indicated that party unity is not his top priority. “I can’t watch the party I love fall into the hands of the elites,” he said. “The elites have shut the door on the grassroots, the foundation of our party.”
It would be no surprise if he campaigns on ditching the carbon tax commitment – which would probably be popular with much of the PC base. But if he did, the whole platform would be unfunded and collapse in on itself.
Ford did remarkably well in 2014, winning 20 of the city’s 44 wards. His folksy style appeals to the kind of folks who think the swamp should be drained. Launching his campaign from his mom’s basement was genius.
But he’s a bull who travels with his own china shop and the PCs don’t have time to pick up the pieces.
They spent six months customizing a platform to appeal to the median voter. Many conservatives, including Ford, will think it’s a sell-out.
In truth, much of it reads like a blatant electoral bribe – hello, $500 winter tire tax credit.
But the polls suggest many Ontarians have reached the conclusion that the Liberals are too old, too tired and too expensive.
Mulroney would present a modern, moderate alternative.