Ontario PCs give Hudak a 2nd chance

Tim Hudak has retained his leadership of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives, taking nearly 80 per cent of the ballots cast.

Rookie leader takes nearly 80% of ballots cast

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, shown in December, is facing a a leadership review at his party's annual general meeting in Niagara Falls. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Tim Hudak has retained his leadership of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives.

The Opposition chief survived a leadership review by delegates gathered at the Tory convention in Niagara Falls, receiving 78.7 per cent support of the 1,241 ballots cast. Most observers had expected the party would give the rookie leader a second chance, given the possibility of a snap election in a minority legislature.

Ontario's political history offers several examples of defeated leaders getting a second chance: former PC leader John Tory stayed on after receiving 66.9 per cent support following a disastrous 2007 election campaign; Premier Dalton McGuinty scored an 81 per cent approval rating following his first election loss as Liberal leader in 1999.

Hudak has already shown some contrition for the party's defeat in the Oct. 6 vote, saying he appeared to be auditioning for the job of Opposition leader and that's what he got.

In a speech to the party faithful, Hudak said he has heard from people that the "real" him didn't come shining through during last year's election campaign. He said he spent too much time on secondary issues and has heard the party platform "was a critique of the way things are, not a vision for the way things could be."

He said the Tories are "the voice of hope for those who have lost hope."

Most observers expect Hudak will survive the review because of a minority legislature and the possibility of a snap election on the horizon, but the party's constitution requires a look at the leadership.

Though Hudak did not bring the election victory the party sought in October, CBC's Mike Crawley reported, the Tories still increased their percentage of the popular vote and their seats to 37 from 25.

The party will elect a new president on Sunday.


With files from The Canadian Press