John Tory feels the heat from his own party
TheStar.com - Ontario -
PC Leader John Tory lost his seat in the 2007 provincial election. Ontario Conservatives set to debate rule change requiring party leaders to win spot in Legislature
January 06, 2009
QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU CHIEF
Ontario Progressive Conservatives will consider amending their constitution to force their party leader to have a seat in the Legislature.
In a move apparently designed to embarrass leader John Tory, who has been without a seat since the Oct. 10, 2007 provincial election, the party will debate the change at a policy convention in Niagara Falls next month.
Sources said one proposed amendment, which would probably not be retroactive and therefore could only apply to a future chief, stipulates that a leader must be an MPP within a year of taking the party helm.
"In the event that a (12)-month period has passed during which the leader has failed to be elected to the Legislature or to be nominated as a candidate of record for the party in an electoral district not currently represented by a member of the Legislative Assembly, the executive shall call a leadership election," the amendment says.
Another proposed amendment simply says "the Leader shall stand for election to the Legislature as a party candidate."
That's because, surprisingly enough, there has never been a statute in the Progressive Conservative party's constitution saying the leader must also be an MPP.
Party insiders confirmed that the proposed amendments would be debated at the convention in Niagara Falls on Feb. 20 to 22.
Contacted last night, Tory played down the significance of the proposal. "Obviously, there are a variety of constitutional amendments which have been put forward," he said in an email, suggesting party officials were better versed on such machinations.
The deadline for submitting such proposals, which are ostensibly driven by grassroots members but are subject to approval by the party executive, is midnight tonight.
It takes 10 signatures from members to have an amendment considered by the party's influential constitution committee.
A senior Conservative told the Star the two amendments are unlikely to pass because such policy would hurt the party's ability to attract people to the leadership in the future. "How can we expect someone from the business community to drop everything to run for leader if we impose a restriction like this on them?" the source said.
But another official insisted yesterday "there's a fair amount of support" for the changes.
"It's a pretty wide range of people," said the insider, adding Tory's "limbo" status since winning 66.9 per cent of party support in a leadership review vote last February has actually boosted the popularity of the scheme.
Since losing Don Valley West to Education Minister Kathleen Wynne in the election, Tory has been trying to persuade one of his 25 caucus members to step aside so he could contest a by-election.
Tory, who spent two weeks in Kenya on a family reunion trip over Christmas, has promised to announce his plans for the future on Friday. He had originally set Dec. 31 as his personal deadline for finding a seat in the Legislature.
While it has been widely expected that he will continue on as leader without a seat and not force a by-election, friends say he has done a lot of soul-searching recently.
Tory's backers fear the proposed amendments are deliberate slights to make him look bad, and are a sign the meeting next month could get ugly if he remains as leader.
Two weeks ago, PC MPP Peter Shurman (Thornhill) said Tory should "run for election in a suitable seat and a suitable time," instead of worrying about any imminent by-election.
"A seat will become available and it won't be because anybody has been pressured (to resign). This is a time for stability. This is a very bad time to (switch leaders)," he said Dec. 18, calling Tory's own New Year's Eve deadline "ridiculous."
Last week, however, MPP Bob Runciman (Leeds-Grenville), Tory's surrogate in the Legislature, said the seat debacle was a "growing distraction."
"There's strong support for John Tory (in caucus) but it's probably not unanimous support," he said.
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