This was the topic I hoped to write about a week ago, but it remains relevant today as well.
Over the last few months there has been space created for men and women to speak out about sexual abuse, assault and misconduct in public forums in an effort to seek justice and redress. For some I think it was about simply standing up and being heard. This wave has crashed upon Canadian politics and the aftermath is still reverberating. Tonight I'd like to focus on Ontario.
We are delusional if we believe that the allegations against Patrick Brown and Rick Dykstra are unique to the Progressive Conservative Party and Conservative Party. Men, powerful men in politics and elsewhere, have used their position and authority to try to leverage it to their personal advantage. This should be accepted as fact. What's concerning is that there have been numerous personal rumours swirling about Brown for years that have not come to the surface, until possibly now.
It's possible that the court of public opinion will eventually pull back their scrutiny of Brown and Dykstra and they'll be permitted back into public life. At the moment, in the current climate, they are verging on persona non grata.
Oddly, in the end, this may come to benefit the Progressive Conservatives. Polling seems to indicate that people view this issue as falling on individuals rather than institutions. The PCs are still Ontarians' first choice to form the next government in the wake of Brown's crash. The MPPs and party moved so quickly to push Brown out that little could be argued that they tried to defend him or cover anything up, at least to the public's eye.
Brown had managed to do a few successful things. He raised a great deal of money, expanded the party membership (though by how much is now in great question), and recruited a number of star candidates for the upcoming election. However, he remained wooden and cool on the campaign trail and during speeches. Ontarians didn't know him and didn't much care for him. He was simply an empty blue suit to replace Wynne. My sincere opinion was that when Ontarians learned of him the PCs fortunes would sag.
The Ontario Progressive Conservatives have a unique opportunity, but also a severe risk. Choosing a new leader may give them a chance to find someone with greater charisma and talents to lead a party and a government. Or, at least find one that will sit better with the public than Brown did. It should be remembered that this is all hypothetical. They may find their perfect John/Jane Doe to lead the party, but it may leave voters unsatisfied in a surprising way.
The same type of candidate who could win over the Progressive Conservative Party membership is not necessarily the same to win over the voting public. The PCs therefore hare gambling on being able to find the right person in a few short weeks to lead their party, and perhaps our next government. Of course, this ignores the fractures and in-fighting that inevitably follows, even if things go relatively smoothly. Bitter partisans will only hurt local campaigns if feelings are hurt before election day. Ontarians have yet to pay attention to the upcoming provincial election, but this news bomb was woken them up. The public is willing to give the PCs a second chance, so they best not waste it.