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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
John Tory Could Have Been Prime Minister
16/02/2004

It just goes to show you that you never know what's going to happen.

After the Toronto mayoral election I have written a few articles speculating about the future of candidate John Tory. There were rumours circulating about either fighting for the former job of his political hero Bill Davis, or taking a run at the leadership of the new united right.

His people were interested enough that they started spreading the word that he was bilingual. Former Globe and Mail editor William Thorsell wrote an opinion piece in his old paper calling for Stephen Harper to step aside and endorse Tory. But, if you had asked me then, I would have thought it was a waste of his time. Why would John Tory want to spend up to ten years sitting in the opposition benches.

Well, times sure have changed. Check out these excerpts from John Ibbitson's column today in the Globe and Mail. (Hattip: Tilting at Windmills):

The implosion of Liberal fortunes in the wake of the sponsorship scandal has thrilled Tory organizers who orchestrated the merger of the Alliance and Conservative parties. The most recent Ipsos-Reid poll shows that the Conservatives have benefited the most from the sudden plunge in Liberal support. Any further erosion, and a minority government may be in the offing.

...So who will lead this new party? And who should lead it?

...[Belinda Stronach's] pitch is premised on the assumption that the Conservatives can't expect to win in May. Instead, they see Ms. Stronach as the candidate best positioned to defeat Paul Martin in 2008. ... However, the new Tory leader might not have four years to learn on the job. In a minority government, the leader of the official opposition will need to exploit Liberal weakness, maintain momentum, and present a credible alternative for the voters, who could be at the polls again within a year or two.

Such a scenario plays to Stephen Harper's strengths.

...Except that first you need that minority government. While Liberal support has collapsed in the West, it has only begun to erode in Ontario. A minority government is only possible if the Bloc holds on in Quebec and if two dozen or so of Ontario's 106 seats migrate from the Liberals to the Conservatives. And if it's all about Ontario, then perhaps the best choice would be Tony Clement.

Well, I have to imagine that John Tory could have been a stronger alternative than Tony Clement -- both in terms of winning the leadership and in terms of winning votes. It's too late, but I think he'd have been a good choice for the Conservatives right now.


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