The Progressive Conservatives have revealed more than 100 policy ideas that will form the backbone of their campaign platform in next year's Ontario election.
The proposals are laid out in detail on the party's website. Those that get approved by the party's 130,000 members (through an online vote early next month) will become official PC policy heading into the election in June.
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The PCs are drawing up their campaign platform this way to try to avoid a repeat of their 2014 election defeat, which many in the party blame on a single, controversial campaign promise by then-leader Tim Hudak: cutting 100,000 public sector jobs.
Overall, the 139 new ideas generated by the party grassroots under PC leader Patrick Brown steer clear of controversy. Many are vague statements that no one could disagree with, for instance:
- "PC Party policy is to help make life more affordable for families with young children."
- "PC Party policy is to guarantee faster service by all Ministries and agencies."
- "PC Party policy is to ensure better care for Dementia patients."
Yet in steering clear of controversy, the PCs run the risk of missing out on bold ideas that will capture the imagination of voters.
Those bold ideas will come, insists Kevin Gaudet, co-chairman of next month's PC convention, where the results of the policy voting will be revealed.
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"This is not the platform," said Gaudet in an interview Thursday with CBC News.
"The content for [the platform] will be driven by whatever's passed at the convention," Gaudet said. "If something is rejected, it will not be in the platform."
Gaudet argues the proposals include enough specific ideas to help shape the party's platform, while the broader ideas leave leeway for filling in details as the campaign nears. He points to resolutions on tax relief, eliminating cap and trade, and improving math in schools as examples of more concrete proposals.
Despite the lengthy list of 139 ideas, plenty of holes remain. The resolutions take no stand on four of the most significant policies introduced by Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government in the past year: the $15 minimum wage, rent control, free prescription drugs for people under 25, and OSAP grants that cover tuition for students from lower-income families.
The words "women," "doctors," "nurses," "French," and "marijuana" don't appear anywhere in the 6,000-plus words of text.
The word "teachers" appears ìn one resolution: "PC Party policy is to empower teachers and give them the tools, training, and flexibility they need to use their professional judgment to promote student achievement and support student needs."
"There's a lot that's not there, and what is there just completely lacks substance," said Deputy Premier Deb Matthews in an interview Thursday with CBC News. "It's just motherhood and apple pie, There's nothing specific about how [Brown] is going to do anything that he says that they want to do."
The PC policy launch "was supposed to be when we'd find out who [Brown] was and what he stood for and what they're going to run on in the next election," said Matthews. "We don't know anything more about who is he or what he stands for than we did before."
CBC News requested an interview with Brown on Thursday but his staff said he was travelling in a remote part of northern Ontario and was not reachable.
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A sample of the Ontario PC resolutions to be voted on by the party membership next month:
PC Party policy is to create a wider range of options for childcare.
PC Party policy is to ensure that all ministries have respect for and understanding of the importance of private property rights and each ministry will have to demonstrate the strong public need to encroach on private property rights.
PC Party policy is to eliminate the Drive Clean Program.
PC Party policy is to cancel the Liberal slush fund known as the Climate Change Action Plan, dismantle cap-and-trade, and withdraw from the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), and to return 100% of revenues from Trudeau's Federal carbon pricing benchmark to taxpayers as verified by the Auditor General.
PC Party policy is to open an investigation into the lack of sufficient winter maintenance on provincially regulated highways and roadways in Ontario.
PC Party policy is to cut your taxes and provide tax credits, to make life more affordable for families and businesses.
PC Party policy is to reduce overcrowding in our hospitals and eliminate hallway health-care by providing Ontarians with prevention programs, more effective access to timely care and better use of our health care providers.