Watch above: A defiant Tim Hudak to remain PC leader until a successor is chosen. Alan Carter reports.
TORONTO – Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives could soon have an interim leader to replace Tim Hudak following the party’s humiliating defeat in last week’s provincial election.
Conservatives who survived the Liberal sweep held a caucus meeting at the legislature Monday to discuss what went wrong in the election, which cost the party nine seats and allowed Premier Kathleen Wynne to be re-elected with a majority government.
On the way to the meeting, several Tories expressed frustration with Hudak and his campaign pledge to cut 100,000 public-sector jobs, a promise they claimed the Tory leader made public before warning his caucus.
“There’s going to be a lot of frank and honest comments,” said Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Todd Smith said before the meeting.
The 100,000 job cuts pledge was “brutal” and devastating to many PC candidates, said Smith, adding that the party should not allow Hudak to stay on as leader until a leadership convention is held.
"This was an anti-Tim Hudak election," he said. “We need renewal in our party and it has to start today.”
Veteran Conservatives admitted they were not given advance warning before Hudak announced a week into the campaign that a Tory government would cut 100,000 public-sector jobs, and soon found themselves facing angry voters as they knocked on doors looking for support.
In Depth: Ontario Election 2014
“I don’t think there’s any more analysis required than that,” said former leadership contender Randy Hillier, who placed fourth in the 2009 leadership contest won by Hudak.
Conservative MPP Toby Barrett said the party did a poor job of explaining that a lot of the planned job cuts would come through attrition and contracting out services, and credited the attack ads by various unions that flooded TV and radio with helping re-elect the Liberals.
“We have a government for the government unions run by the government unions,” said Barrett. “I’m quite impressed how they pulled that off.”
Hudak complained during the campaign that 19 different unions were participating in a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to fight his jobs plan by urging voters to reject the Progressive Conservatives.
Deputy PC leader Christine Elliott, who insisted it was too early to talk about a leadership bid, said it was “a combination of things” that drove voters from the PCs to the Liberals.
“We ran a principled campaign and I’m very proud, (but) it just wasn’t meant to be,” she said.
Lambton-Kent-Middlesex Tory Monte McNaughton refused to rule out taking a run for the PC leadership, and like Elliott said it was too soon for such considerations.
Several MPPs expressed frustration with the way the PC campaign was managed, and at least two said they ignored ideas from headquarters and did whatever they could locally to get re-elected.
Other names mentioned as possible candidates in a PC leadership race include party president Richard Ciano and federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.
© The Canadian Press, 2014