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ANALYSIS: Patrick Brown and the lure of low hanging fruit

Patrick Brown, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario is photographed during a scrum at the Ontario legislature on April 5 2016. Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail

Politics may make for strange bedfellows, but in Ontario, a September heatwave has the opposition Progressive Conservatives positively spooning an often hard line union.

With the mercury spiking and classrooms sweltering, the Elementary Teachers Federation (ETFO) reiterated a call for maximum indoor temperature limits. If a school exceeded that limit, class could be cancelled.

In a Global News story on the issue, a parent advocate told reporter Caryn Lieberman Kathleen Wynneis sitting in an air conditioned office” while children swelter.

The next day in the legislature, PC leader Patrick Brown echoed the sentiments he had clearly seen on TV, and without mentioning ETFO, called for the government to bring in maximum temperature limits for schools.

READ MORE: Parents call on Ontario government to address heat in schools

As you would expect, Brown repeated the accusation that Wynne was chilling while kids were cooking.

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I don’t have air conditioning everywhere in my office, shot back Wynne.

Nor in my home for that matter, she continued.

Wait.

Wynne’s home isn’t air conditioned? Is she impervious to heat? Can she not afford the hydro?

So. Many. Questions. But back to the point.

READ MORE: Kathleen Wynne questioned about sweltering Ontario schools

What’s really going on here has less to do with sweaty pupils and more with scoring points. You would be mistaken to think Mr. Brown has come around to ETFO’s way of thinking.

Brown is not suggesting more money for the school system, let alone a massive influx of capital spending to install AC units. Nor does he have an answer for what the threshold to close a school might be.

That is to be determined by local boards of health, he said.

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What of working parents who would have to scramble to find childcare in the event of a school closure?

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Would parents be allowed to take their kids to homes without air conditioning after picking them up from a closed school?

Determined to not sweat the details, the PCs instead pushed a video of Brown mocking Wynne for saying she had to move a meeting in her office to an area that had air conditioning. Brown’s indignation about a cool Wynne mirrors the lather his party worked themselves into over provincial grant money for a giant rubber ducky to tour Ontario.

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As a Barrie MP, Brown supported spending tax money for fireworks because fireworks bring in tourists, but bemoaned the ducks lack of Canuck relevance.

Over the course of the summer as countless selfies were snapped by huge crowds, Brown stuck with his duck bill pout, even though it was clear the canard was a hit.

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Reaching for easy political points, whether hot schools or inflatable fowl, is a byproduct of having few defining policies.

READ MORE: PCs call $120K Ontario government grant for giant rubber duck a waste of money

Without a plank in the water, the PC boat is susceptible to being blown off course trying to harness any gust of outrage.

The PCs hold their convention in November in Toronto and promise to put out more specifics in the months before the June 2018 election, but in the interim Brown is increasingly being attacked as an empty vessel, content to simply not be Kathleen Wynne.

Perhaps it’s the heat making the low hanging fruit seem extra tempting for the Progressive Conservatives, but Brown would be better served if he copied Wynne and moved to a new room to cool off.

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