On Friday, March 16th, 2012 I had a one-on-one interview with Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak. We began our on-the-record time together with me explaining that conservatives I meet through the blogosphere tend to see the word “progressive” in the Ontario “Progressive Conservative” party as problematic.
So, Hudak clearly understood what I was getting at when I asked my first of four questions.
(1) Conservative Credentials
Sandy: As leader of a “Progressive” Conservative Party, what are your “conservative” credentials?
Tim Hudak: I am always surprised when people ask me that question. As you know, I was first elected in June of 1995 and come out of that proud Mike Harris tradition of cutting taxes, reducing the size of government, balancing the budget and paying down the deficit. I also believe in the power of the private sector to create jobs and prosperity. I was just in New York City for a couple of days recently to see the bond dealers, such as Moody’s and the banks. For the first time since the Bob Rae NDP Government, Ontario is now on their radar screen and that is really troublesome.
(2) Turning Ontario’s economy around
Sandy: What do you see as the priorities to reverse the current trends should your Ontario PCs win a majority government in the near future?
Tim Hudak: First, if we want to bring jobs and prosperity back to Ontario, the first thing we have to do is get the books back into balance as soon as possible — get our fiscal house in order. I have given the date of 2017 and I intend to stick to that. While I would like to say we could turn things around in one four-year term, that would be disingenuous. The Drummond Report made it clear that things are now so bad that the reality is it will take to 2017.
How I would get the fiscal situation under control is by cutting the size and cost of each government Ministry by 12.5%. That’s huge. Right off the top it would save $2 billion a year. We would also immediate implement a public sector hiring and wage freeze — which would save another $2 billion a year. It can be done. It must be done. Which is only fair given people in the private sector have been struggling all along and have already had to cut back.
We also need to get out of the corporate welfare business. I don’t think governments should be telling which businesses matter and which do not.
(3) McGuinty Liberal green bandwagon
Sandy: Which brings me to those businesses which have jumped on the green bandwagon. What about the green and renewable issues related to the Liberals Green Energy Act?
Tim Hudak: First, you can’t pay ten times for the amount of power and create jobs, any kind of jobs, green or otherwise. A PC Government would immediately end the “Feed-In-Tariff” program. Full stop. As I said, no more paying ten times the price of power and no more green subsidies. Second, we would restore local decision-making. The municipalities would have their say and local community citizens would have their say. That would bring back democracy.
We would also direct the PC Minister of Energy to look at projects that have gone through the system but are not yet raising power. For each such project, we’d consult with the municipalities affected and their local communities and decide on a case-by-case basis whether they should proceed or not or be altered. In other words, whether or not they went ahead would be decided after local input and the best interests of the local ratepayers.
(4) Creating prosperity and jobs
Sandy: How would a PC Government encourage job creation since government does not actually create long-term jobs?
Tim Hudak: Tax cuts create jobs. They do so by stirring the economy and unleashing the rewards of the work ethic. The reality is you must have a healthy private sector. To be healthy, we would first have to change the attitude of government towards the private sector by ending policies that actually slows business development down or gets in the way [e.g., with red tape and other unnecessary regulations].
By unleashing that power, I believe we can turn Ontario’s economy around. The reality is that in 2012 capital is fully mobile and can go anywhere in the world. I want it here in Ontario. I want to open up the door to that prosperity and roll out the red carpet. What we don’t want is for Ontario to become the Greece of Canada.
End of Interview Conclusions
In person PC Leader Tim Hudak is vibrant and charismatic. As soon as he walked into the Tim Hortons where I was waiting (by myself as this was no photo-op), customers jumped up and shook his hand. The interesting thing is we were meeting in what is now long-time Liberal Jim Bradley’s riding. Which means, the extremely friendly response by customers could now have a more hopeful meaning.
Personally, I have never had any doubt that the Ontario PC Party and its leader were conservative. I have known Tim since he was first elected in 1995 and was one of the four Niagara caucus with my former boss, Tom Froese, MPP. Yet, somehow the liberal media have muddied the waters, as have third parties such as the Working Families Coalition and the teachers’ unions‘ ad campaigns, such as this one and this one. I mean, let’s face it, the Dalton McGuinty Liberals have given the teachers everything they wanted and more and yet they refuse to look at the reality of our fiscal situation, balking at even a two-year wage freeze. What ever happened to critical thinking skills and resisting peer pressure?
Whatever the case, it is obvious that Ontario is currently at a crossroads. Meaning, that if at any time the current Liberal government is brought down by the PCs and the NDP, Ontario conservatives, whether of the “progressive” conservative variety or not, have to make sure that Hudak and his party wins a solid majority government. But, to do that, the very same conservative voters are going have to stop constantly questioning Hudak’s conservative credentials and being ticked off over any number of single issues.
In other words, Ontario needs the Ontario PC Party and Tim Hudak to return Ontario to prosperity and “have” status. Full stop!