Progressive Conservatives are lining up MPPs’ nominations now for the next provincial election
|Toronto Star 16 Sep 2020 at 15:10|
Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are set to officially nominate the party’s 72 sitting MPPs to run as candidates in the next election, the Star has learned.
In a move that fuels speculation about a snap election call in the spring — more than one year before the scheduled 2022 vote — the Tories want incumbents to be renominated before the legislature rises Dec. 10.
Senior Conservatives, three of whom spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations, note the party is also stepping up fundraising efforts.
While some strategists believe the Tories should seek another mandate sooner rather than later to get out ahead of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ford himself is cool to the idea.
Earlier this summer, he told the Star he does not think his majority government needs to face voters before June 2022.
“No, not at all. We’re going to year four,” the premier said on July 24 as he embarked upon an eight-week, 5,000-km summer that took him to 38 of Ontario’s 124 ridings..
A month earlier, he was asked if the health crisis might even force the next election to be delayed until 2023.
“ No, that’s too far ahead,” Ford said on June 26. “I’m looking day to day, week to week, and where we’re going to be at six months down the road, and get the economy going, and get people back on their feet. (It) really hasn’t crossed my mind.”
But some PC insiders are eager to hit the hustings before the recession worsens.
They point to New Brunswick Tory Premier Blaine Higgs’s re-election victory on Monday and the possibility of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s resurgent Liberals triggering a federal campaign this fall.
Although Ontario law fixes election dates once every four years, the majority Conservatives could easily amend the legislation, citing the coronavirus emergency.
Behind the scenes, the Ontario Tories are on a fundraising blitz even though in-person events aren’t being held.
The party has sent out six separate email appeals for cash in the past month — on Aug. 19, Aug. 26, Aug. 31, Sept. 2, Sept. 8 and this past Tuesday.
“We wanted to send you some good news,” the most recent missive tells supporters.
“The numbers are in — Ontario marked the third straight month of employment growth! The province gained another 142,000 new jobs in August, following gains of nearly 530,000 jobs in June and July.
“That’s 670,000 jobs added back to the economy and 670,000 more people back to work. It’s not by accident. We are fortunate to have a premier that is laser-focused on getting Ontario back on track.”
The emailed message, which requests recipients to “chip in $5 today” does not mention that Ontario, which is in a recession , has lost almost 1.2-million jobs since the pandemic hit in March.
Nor does it note the Tories are spending a record $186.7 billion this year — 18 per cent more than the former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s 2018-19 budget — and are projecting a $38.5-billion budget deficit, the largest in Ontario history.
Ford’s Conservatives are not the only party girding for an election.
Rookie Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, who took the helm in March, has been telling his troops to be ready.
Del Duca’s party is also nominating incumbents as well as other hopefuls and doing online fundraising.
Last week, the Liberals nominated community activist David Morris to again be their standard-bearer in Toronto Centre.
That downtown seat was a Liberal stronghold for a generation until the 2018 election when New Democrat Suze Morrison won there, thumping Morris by a margin of two to one.
While the Grits privately acknowledge they trail the Tories in public opinion polls — thanks mostly to Ford’s performance during the pandemic — they believe they can regain more than a dozen seats lost to the NDP two years ago.