When Tim Hudak was elected the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, he came in with Mike Harris' blessing. He was, after all, one of Harris' young guns. But, since his ascension, Hudak has proved repeatedly that he can't shoot straight. Two elections ago, he began with an overwhelming advantage and blew it. In his second contest with Dalton McGuinty, the man who recently departed Queen's Park with a whimper came within one seat of a majority government.
And, during Ontario's recent budget negotiations, Hudak simply refused to play. He assumed that another election was coming. But things did not work out as he planned. Martin Regg Cohen writes in The Toronto Star:
It’s not hard to see why Hudak is seething. His party made a big bet on a spring campaign, priming its party headquarters and nominating a full slate of candidates — many of whom took leave of their jobs but now have little to do in the dog days of summer.
Disdainful of dirtying his hands in any prebudget negotiations, Hudak dealt himself out of the process for the second year in a row. And now has nothing to show for it.
Unlike Hudak, Andrea Horvath understood that she could have a significant influence on the budget:
Horwath has wielded the balance of power effectively since the 2011 election that produced a Liberal minority government. While the Tories sat on the sidelines, Horwath won concessions. In last year’s budget, she got most of what she wanted; this year, she got even more: an expanded youth job creation program, welfare reforms, auto insurance cuts, expanded long-term care and a new Financial Accountability Office.
The final package was both progressive and pragmatic. Despite Tory warnings, the (overrated) credit rating agencies didn’t blink.
Now Hudak is faced with angry candidates who were expecting to get elected. They -- and Hudak -- have nothing to show for their labours:
Hudak chose the last question period before the summer break to vent his bitterness, singling out Horwath before even targeting Premier Kathleen Wynne. While his job description demands that the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition hold the government to account, Hudak used his leadoff question to taunt the NDP instead:
“I say to the NDP: Stand with us. Vote against this budget. Bring change to the province of Ontario and no longer prop up a corrupt government."
When Wynne rallied to Horwath’s defence, Hudak rounded on the NDP leader: “She’s tied herself into a human pretzel just to prop up a corrupt government."
All Hudak can do now is stew in his own bitterness. I suspect that a lot of Ontario PCs are also stewing. Hudak should watch his back.