I agree with most of the commentary out there about departing Ontario PC leader John Tory who lost a byelection Thursday in a safe, rural Tory seat near Peterborough: he's a decent, hard-working man with bad political judgment. I've always liked him and I was relieved when he won the Tory leadership because it meant an end to the hard-right, Ontario-destroying conservative tradition started by Mike Harris which gave birth to Walkerton, undermined public services, gave us poisoned meat and other unfortunate legacies. Sadly, Tory didn't seem up to the job of leader, despite his kind nature.
I agree with many that John Tory's greatest mistake was proposing a solution to Ontario's long-standing, unjust public education funding model. Since Confederation, Ontario has publicly funded both a large public system for all, and a separate system for Catholics. Now in the era of multiculturalism and the Charter of Rights, such special treatment for Catholics is archaic. Sadly, this injustice seems completely lost on premier Dalton McGuinty, who seems contented to tolerate anything that, if dealt with properly, might compromise his precarious political position (I still consider Dalton to be one of the luckiest politicians in Canada, he's hasn't gotten to where he is due to sheer talent and ability, believe me.)
John Tory recognized that only funding one religious system and not others (where numbers warrant) was wrong and was prepared to propose one of two solutions. Sadly, he chose the wrong solution: he wanted to expand public funding to other religions. The right solution, the one the people of Ontario actually want, would've been to shut down the Catholic system and merge it with the public. This is the riskier solution because it would cause massive political headaches for any premier to tackle.
Now new Tory leadership contenders are kicking the tires on possible leadership runs. It seems that the Ontario party is set to lurch back to the far right if John Capobianco's comments today are any indication: “There's a whole bunch of Mike Harris small-c conservatives – of which I'm one – who are going to say, ‘You know, we tried [the moderate approach of John Tory] now let's try with somebody else.'”
At a time when widespread deregulation led to the financial meltdown and subsequent collapse of the economy, not to mention the structural deficit left behind in 2003 after years of irresponsible Tory tax cuts in Ontario, and now you think we need more neo-conservatism? Boys, boys...will you never learn?