In October, I helped end the long-running discussion of who Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown is. A month later, Brown has helped end the long-running discussion of what he stands for.
Last weekend’s Progressive Conservative policy convention in Toronto was highlighted by the release of a 78-page document entitled the People’s Guarantee. Designed like a high-gloss magazine, it includes 147 promises that Brown and his party will campaign on in next June’s provincial election.
Here’s the real kicker. The People’s Guarantee includes five major commitments that Brown must implement in his first term as premier or he won’t seek a second mandate.
The list is as follows:
- 22.5 per cent income tax reduction for the middle class (over four years);
- significant funding for mental health services;
- 12 per cent reduction on monthly hydroelectric bills;
- 75 per cent refund for child care services (based on family income);
- the implementation of a Trust, Integrity and Accountability Act.
As expected, the reaction to Brown’s plan has been all over the map.
Some blue Tories, or right-leaning conservatives, are screaming bloody murder because they don’t see significant fiscal accountability. Some red Tories, or left-leaning conservatives, think he didn’t go far enough in defending government’s roles and responsibilities. Some Liberals and progressives have mocked it, and warn that a hidden agenda will appear if Brown becomes premier.
It’s also easy to cherry-pick some PC policies that are imperfect:
- A carbon tax would be less than desirable, for instance, although the expensive Liberal plan for the environment has been far worse.
- Uploading the Toronto Transit Commission’s subways could be costly, but it would help expand and increase ridership – and leave more money in city coffers to ensure better bus and streetcar service.
- Matching Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 10-year, $1.9-billion commitment to mental health funding could make some Ontario conservatives shudder, but our political movement isn’t heartless. It has always believed in helping those most vulnerable to better themselves and, in turn, better our society.
Nevertheless, Ontarians from all walks of life (including me) are quite content with his positions and strategies.
As a right-leaning conservative, I would have preferred a huge reduction in the size of government, bigger tax cuts, slashing away at wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars and chopping the bureaucracy at its kneecaps.
But these types of austerity measures, which were once useful tools for right-leaning parties, don’t have the same appeal in today’s political climate. Politics has always been a game of ebbs and flows – you have to keep pace with the ever-changing tastes and positions of voters. Right now, they strongly lean toward a more balanced mandate between fiscal prudence and public spending – and won’t support parties and/or leaders who refuse to defend these stances.
Brown is, therefore, in a perfect position to take up this mantle. His ideology is a blend of red Tory and blue Tory philosophies. It enables him to take measured approaches to issues like responsible government, levels of taxation and funding of social programs.
That’s exactly what the People’s Guarantee is and stands for. It’s not “Liberal lite” or a “Say Anything” strategy, as some of Brown’s critics have said. It’s a mesh of the PC leader’s principles, the voters’ principles and the province’s principles.
Brown and the PCs have introduced a realistic plan for Ontario’s political and economic future.
It’s a vision that conservative luminaries like former Alberta premier Ralph Klein, former Ontario premier Mike Harris, and former Tory prime ministers Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper would have, and would still, approve of.
And, while they’ll never admit it publicly, it’s a vision that will give Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government plenty of sleepless nights.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.