‘A different approach’: Ontario PC leader looks to rebrand party with pledge to tone down partisanship

Ashley Csanady | September 10, 2015 2:32 PM ET

National Post

Patrick Brown is continuing his push to present the Ontario PC Party as a softer kind of Tory as he readies for the start of the legislative sitting on Monday.

Matthew Sherwood for National Post

Matthew Sherwood for National PostPatrick Brown, the new leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, checks out his new stomping grounds at Queen’s Park in Toronto in May.

Brown took over leadership of the provincial Tories in May, and earlier this month won his seat at Queen’s Park, where he will be sworn in Monday as an MPP and take his place as leader of the official opposition. Brown said the party will make hydro prices, red tape and manufacturing jobs top priorities. They will combat the Liberals’ plans to institute an Ontario pension plan, which he called a “payroll tax.”

But Brown also said he hopes to tone down the partisan rancour at Queen’s Park.

“We’re going to take a different approach at Queen’s Park this fall,” Brown said. “I really believe that there is a thirst for sincerity in Ontario,” as opposed to simplistic partisanship.

Under Tim Hudak’s leadership, and when the Liberals were in a minority government position before the June 2014 election, the PCs emphasized their role as opposition and not much else. Brown said Thursday he wants to discuss ideas more on their merits and less on their party lines.

There is no monopoly on a good idea… When the Liberals act in the best interests of the province, we will praise them

“There is no monopoly on a good idea, I’ve said that about 1,000 times in the last year,” Brown said. “When the Liberals act in the best interests of the province, we will praise them, we will recognize a good action. When it’s not in the best interests of the province, we will very clearly point out how we should take a different approach.

“It will not be blindly partisan at Queen’s Park. We will be thoughtful; we will be sincere; we will be authentic in highlighting how Ontario can be prosperous again.”

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank GunnOntario Progressive Conservative party leader Patrick Brown raises his hands in victory with leadership candidate Christine Elliott.

He said electricity rates and Ontario’s recent credit downgrades are signs the provincial Liberals are fumbling economic files. He added the planned sale of 60 per cent of Hydro One could make power even more expensive, which is why he appointed a critic to just that issue: Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Todd Smith will fill that role.

In announcing a revamped shadow cabinet, Brown tackled several challenges: filling gaps left by Garfield Dunlop, who gave up his seat so Brown could run for it, and Christine Elliott, who recently resigned her Whitby-Oshawa seat after losing the leadership to Brown; it also gave Brown a chance to repair cracks in caucus that were created by the leadership race.

Most of the sitting MPPs backed Elliott, not Brown, who was the MP for Barrie. And some of his fiercest critics, as well as his staunchest supporters, were rewarded in the shuffle.

Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark, who supported Elliott, is one of two new deputy leaders alongside Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones.

Jean Levac/ Ottawa Citizen

Jean Levac/ Ottawa CitizenOntario MPP Monte McNaughton.

Jeff Yurek, a pharmacist, fills Elliott’s former role as health critic.

Toby Barrett, who backed Brown, gets caucus chair and agriculture. Monte McNaughton, who dropped out of the leadership race to throw his weight behind Brown, is economic development critic and he gets a committee chair, which comes with a higher salary.

Jim Wilson, who served as interim leader between Hudak and Brown, returns to his post as house leader.

Brown appointed himself education critic for both the public and post-secondary levels. It’s an interesting choice given the ongoing debate about sex ed in Ontario, and the Tories’ delicate dance around the issue. Brown said Thursday he believes parents should have been better consulted on sex ed, but he also wouldn’t point to any specific areas of the new curriculum he considered in appropriate.

The full list of Ontario PC shadow cabinet positions is available here.