Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Grading the Leaders: John Tory: D

What to say about John Tory's campaign? Well at least he'll probably do better than the last major campaign he ran (wonder if Kim Campbell is laughing now though).

Anyways there were many problems with John Tory's campaign that's left him in his currently very weak position. I'll only focus on three in particular though. First obviously there was the religious schools issue. It's coming out more and more now that Tory had been told by many people and even focus groups that this idea was toxic and he ignored them all. Tory says a good leader has to listen, but it seems to be that Tory only "listens" when his back is completely against the wall and he has no other choice (unless he really did want to re-live 1993). So his plowing through on this issue and continually beating us over the head on how he was standing firm on principle and that somehow this was going to win us all over was just completely lacking in judgment and as some commentators put "political suicide". While his reversal stopped a mutiny from occurring it probably lost him a lot of supporters that actually thought he was a man of principle (and he has continued to confuse voters on the free vote issue ever since). Basically I can't fathom what other terrible ill-thought ideas Mr. Tory would have rammed through the legislature had he be given a majority. You can argue that this issue shouldn't have dominated the campaign, but Tory's stubbornness on it really highlighted just how unfit for the Premier's office he was. He had not even considered some of the most fundamental flaws with his plan such as what to do about the inevitable court challenges by scientologists and so on, how could he claim that he was going to treat the religious schools just like the Catholics and still let those schools charge tuition, how would he monitor these schools, what would happen when they started violating the curriculum, and on and on. It just give the impression that he doesn't give great thought to his most important policies which is the worst possible quality to have if you want to be the Premier who is tasked with handling education and health care in our province.

Now it wasn't just religious schools that brought Tory down (though that in itself was probably enough to keep him out of the Premier's office). He also made a mistake I think in wrapping his entire campaign around himself as I discussed earlier. Everyone was a "John Tory candidate" and his bus and commercials were all about John Tory and not the PC Party. Pamphlets passed out at these candidates' events said nothing about the candidates themselves, only Tory. It's like he was ashamed of his team and ashamed of his party. It also made it appear as if these candidates would just be complete puppets with no mind of their own. Tory even took the role of attack dog for himself, something that almost always goes to a surrogate. I'm really not sure what Tory thought he was accomplishing other than his naive belief that everyone knew who he was or would like him and I guess Tory thought no one would really care who his candidates actually were. Anyways the whole thing came off as massive arrogance and really raised questions as to just what kind of people was he running and why was he hiding them? As well it feeds the impression that his team is weak and thus he would have a incompetent cabinet to deal with if he actually won. And it doesn't make me want to vote for someone if they're not even well advertised by name, he could have at least given us the illusion that these people won't be puppets. People would like to know about who they are voting for, instead all they hear about is the PC leader (and of course much moreso about that other leader that the Tories were so sure everyone hated).

Besides the John Tory we did see was always complaining and talking about how awful everything in Ontario is, so if he was going to put himself front and centre he should have at least projected a positive image with a positive vision, but he did neither. I'm biased of course, but I didn't like the John Tory I saw on TV, he seemed bitter and angry all the time. So I suppose a voter could assume the "John Tory candidates" were bitter and angry just like him. Anyways the whole image centred nature of the campaign was just one big mistake from the get go.

Finally compounding the other two factors, was Tory's platform. If religious schools was never brought up the $1.5 Billion gap would have been a bigger issue. It just reeked of Harris/Eves slash and burn policies. It also really ate in to Tory's credibility each time he was unable to spell out how he could find such savings. It just made parallels with Harris appropriate again. Tory could have easily really bolstered his credibility and just flat out said "ok I'm going to cut here and here's why". I might not have agreed with him, but your regular John and Jane might have. Instead, he ended up sounding like Hampton that we could all have our cake and eat it too which was basically the whole mantra of the Common Sense Revolution that was proved completely false. Plain and simple something would have to be cut and Tory should have been up front. Nobody believed that he would just find "efficiencies" and no services would suffer.

All these things together just showed that Tory doesn't think through his policies, isn't straight with people and doesn't think much of his team. There's much more issues wrong with Tory's campaign (the complete focus on promises as if that's all that mattered, his horribly negative ads, his fear-mongering on crime that was out of touch with reality, etc....), but I can't go on forever (I do have a Master's program to keep up with) so I've highlighted 3 things that I think basically sunk his chances that's really enough justification for an F.

Ok so I'm being pretty negative, so I'll give Tory some credit. I did like to see that he visited a lot of poor communities in this campaign and some farming communities too that other parties didn't pay as much attention to. That was a good touch and I do get the sense that Tory cares about the impoverished in Ontario (though I still think the rest of his team would rather continue the Harris/Eves war on the poor).

Other than that though, Tory was way too negative all the time which should have been left to his surrogates and when you're on track to do even worse than Ernie Eve's it's really hard to give you anything much beyond a failing grade.

For the few nice touches he showed he avoids an F, but I can't say I'll miss John Tory in politics, he seems better suited elsewhere and I'm sure he'll still make a difference in a positive way as I think he's a good guy at heart.

And then there's McGuinty's campaign.....

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