Friday, March 20, 2009

Ontario Conservative race to be a family affair?

It's a good thing Stephen Harper "laid down the law" the other day for his caucus re: the Ontario Conservative leadership race, because things could be getting interesting:

Supporters of federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley are testing the waters for a possible run for the leadership of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives, raising a new prospect that family ties from the provincial race could make waves in Stephen Harper's Conservative Party in Ottawa.


But a bid by Ms. Finley, whose husband Doug Finley is Mr. Harper's powerful campaign manager, would add a new wrinkle to a provincial contest that holds the potential to create rifts among federal Tories.

Christine Elliott, the MPP for Whitby-Ajax and wife of Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, is already lining up a campaign. Ms. Finley's entry would raise the prospect of federal Conservatives from Ontario squeezed between two power couples.

"Talk about the battle of the spouses," said one organizer who had been contacted by supporters of Ms. Finley.

Ms. Finley is not as well known in provincial party circles as are some federal MPs, but her status as an unscarred federal minister would make her a serious entry, the Tory said, and her husband's reputation as an effective campaign tactician would add organizing weight.
Clark goes on to note many Conservatives are fearful of endorsing a candidate, fearful of retribution from their powerful spouses.
Backing from figures such as Transport Minister John Baird and Health Minister Tony Clement, both former Ontario MPPs, could help sway party members.

Federal Conservatives might worry that their endorsement could put them on the wrong side of an Ottawa heavyweight, however.

Mr. Flaherty, as Finance Minister, can influence most public projects that an MP supports. At Human Resources, Ms. Finley has less cross-government sway, but as campaign manager, Mr. Finley makes key decisions over campaign strategy and resources that can affect a politician's re-election chances.

Well this is certainly beginning to shape up as an interesting race. Don't endorse Elliott and your riding might not get infrastructure projects. Don't endorse Finley and you might find your nomination in jeopardy or your next campaign starved of support for central. What fun.

Continuing the spouses theme, Elliott was in Ottawa last week for a meet and greet, and the invites rubbed at least one Conservative the wrong way.

The invitation came from Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro. He wrote: “Our Finance Minister's significant other Christine Elliott … will be in town for a meet and greet.”

A senior provincial Tory said he didn't think it was such great strategy to promote Ms. Elliott, who is an accomplished lawyer, as the Finance Minister's “significant other.”

“She doesn't need to be running as Mrs. Flaherty. I think that is going to hurt her,” he said. He said she would want to try to shake off the federal Tory connections as the Harperites are not polling well in Ontario.

Interesting that shortly after Elliott visited Ottawa came word that Flaherty is renovating his Parliament Hill office this week:
While Flaherty vacations with his family during Parliament's break week, workers are patching and repainting his fourth floor offices.

They're also patching his carpet to repair damaged portions and installing new curtains, said Chisholm Pothier, spokesman for Flaherty.

Meanwhile, most of the contents of Flaherty's office are sitting in the corridor, just a few doors down from the offices of Liberal Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff.

She must have nagged him to do some renos, right Steve?

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penlan said...

Please, please, oh pretty please let them both run for the leadership. I LOVE fireworks & what a great way to cause division in the federal Con Party. Oh yes, would be loads of fun!

Mike said...

Perfect context for a JUNE FEDERAL election wouldn't you say?

At least from our perspective anyway.

Would be gold to see Conservatives fighting with each other in Ontario right up until the PC leadership and then being bitter at one another in the days afterward right up until federal e-day.

I sincerely hope Ignatieff takes that into consideration when deciding how Liberals vote on the June accountability confidence measure because Ontario is ground zero for winning the next election, we must pick up minimum 20 seats there to get back to govt which is no small feat, so any ongoing distractions and divisions for Cons in Ontario would be a god send for us. Every little bit helps...

Giving them the summer gives them enough months to get over their divisions however, not to mention gives them time to run ample attack ads against on TV while there is no Parliament to hold them to account.

penlan said...

Mike, Oh excellent thinking! Hope someone in the Party takes note of your suggestion.

Jafo said...

It has also been announced that O.P.P. head, Julian Fantino is also considering a run for the job. Wouldn't that just frost Gary McHale's corn flakes?

penlan said...

Not so sure that Fantino will run. He's possibly facing a lawsuit & nefarious doings with the road blockages at some of the aboriginal demonstrations, one still ongoing. Can't remember the name of where. My mind is doing this a lot recently. :(