Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful visits Manitoulin

LITTLE CURRENT—Conservative MP Patrick Brown is on a mission to return the progressive in Progressive Conservative and to lower the level of blind partisanship that has come to characterize the Ontario Tories in recent years.

“Too negative, too partisan,” he said of his perception of the recent approach of the party. He used the example of former PC leader Tim Hudak’s refusal to even look at the Ontario Liberal budget before announcing the party would vote against it.

Mr. Brown was meeting with local party supporters at the Anchor Inn Hotel, discussing party policy and the rebuilding of the party’s traditional base of support over a lunch.

Joining Mr. Brown was an impressive entourage of supporters, including 2001 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Mike Gartner, Jane McKenna, former MPP for Burlington, Derek Park, Ontario 2014 PC candidate for Thunder Bay-Superior North and Brock Vandrick the campaign’s press secretary. Local Progressive Conservative candidate Jib Turner was on hand to assess the candidate and his message was cautious in his comments.

“I am listening to all of the candidates right now,” he said. It is a stance that Mr. Brown said that he appreciates and reflects his own approach of weighing all the facts and implications before setting on a course of action.

“I believe in less grandstanding,” he said. “We need to build relationships in Ontario and to expand our reach.” He used the examples of the alienation of those he called “the traditional partners” of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, the police and nurses.

Mr. Brown said that his not being tied to the party’s internal power wielders is an asset. “I bring a fresh start,” he said. “I am not beholden to anyone.”

At a gathering in Barrie attended by 400 people, Mr. Brown said there were members of the Ontario Provincial Police Association, firefighters’ and nurses’ unions. “People we have not seen in Conservative gatherings in a long time,” he said. Mr. Brown said that after rebuilding his party’s grassroots coalition, he looked forward to rebuilding the province.

“Look to Ottawa where we are seeing the first modern surplus and to Ontario where we are facing growing deficits,” he said.

Mr. Gartner said that he was coming at politics from a different angle. “I look at Patrick and what he intends to do,” said the Hall of Famer. “A look at it from more of a regular man’s perspective. He is a hard worker. I believe if you have a hard work ethic, you will be successful.” He pointed to the community work that Mr. Brown has accomplished in his home community of Barrie as an example.

Mr. Brown said that he is spending a lot of time in Northern Ontario, visiting more than nine communities on this run alone, including Timmins, Hearst and Moosonee, because he wants to better understand the North and its needs. “I am here to listen,” he said.

Ms. McKenna for her part also sees a winning hand for the Progressive Conservatives in Mr. Brown’s work ethic and his approach to modernizing the party and its message. “People ask me why I am supporting him,” she said. “I am supporting him because I see the kind of hard work he is putting into this and I believe he is the best person for the job.”

One of the messages Mr. Turner brought to the table was to point out the important impact that decentralized government offices mean to the North, leveraging well paying government jobs into wealthier more stable communities.

“Jib has a very good point,” said Mr. Brown, who pointed out that much of the social infrastructure in the province was actually put in place by the Tories when they were in power. “We brought in universal health care in Ontario.” He described attacks on the social infrastructure of Ontario as “a mistake.”

“Part of who we are as Ontarians is defined by our social infrastructure,” he said. “We need strong health care, a strong educational system and a safe environment,” he said. “Right now we spend one percent of the budget on prevention and 99 percent on people getting sick. Kids are spending seven to eight hours in front of the television or computer. We have people waiting in hospitals, where it cost 10 times as much to look after them, while they wait for space in a long term care facility.”

He said that it was time to bring back smart government to Ontario.

Mr. Brown’s message to local party faithful and new members alike can be found on The Expositor’s website at www.manitoulin.ca and readers can learn more about his platform and vision for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party at votepatrickbrown.ca.