By Richard Forbes.
Orangeville, Ontario – Rumours coming from the Dufferin-Caledon Conservative riding association suggest executives there are discussing a bid by Conservative front-runner Kevin O’Leary to replace Conservative MP David Tilson. Turning seventy six this Sunday, David Tilson is the oldest sitting Member of Parliament – representing the Dufferin area for thirteen years as a federal MP and twelve as an Ontario MPP.
If true, this marks a turnaround for O’Leary who had previously had said he wouldn’t be seeking a seat in parliament while in opposition:
“I am not going to seek a seat,” O’Leary was quoted as saying. “That’s a waste of time for me right now.”
Perhaps with fellow candidate Maxime Bernier now nipping at his heels in recent polling, the Shark Tank TV star has had a change of heart, hoping to use a nomination and a by-election to bolster his credibility within the party ranks. Bernier visited Dufferin-Caledon in a campaign pit stop in Orangeville just last week at the local Buick GMC dealership.
Dufferin-Caledon, bordering the ridings of fellow contenders Kellie Leitch and Michael Chong, would make a lot of sense as a riding for O’Leary: it has a long history of being used as a safe seat at the provincial level for parachute PC leaders (e.g., Ernie Eves, John Tory) but Dufferin-Caledon – situated within Ontario’s greenbelt – also has a prominent red Tory tradition which is well suited for an unconventional Conservative candidate like O’Leary who has endorsed marriage equality and cannabis legalization.
At Queen’s Park, PC leader Patrick Brown extended an olive branch to the party’s red Tory bench by appointing Dufferin-Caledon’s MPP Sylvia Jones as deputy leader; Jones, who has a legislative history of bipartisanship, was first elected to office in 2007. For his part, MP David Tilson has endorsed Michael Chong in the leadership race and surprised many in voicing support last year for transgender rights.
If a by-election were called, a fall by-election seems likely. Writs for a by-election must be called within six months of a vacancy.
An O’Leary candidacy would likely face competition from Liberal contender Ed Crewson who previously served as a local mayor in Shelburne between 1997-2014. Readers may be familiar with Crewson from his appearance in a recent Globe and Mail op-ed on Shelburne where he discussed the town’s economic growth over his tenure as mayor. Tilson braved the 2015 federal election’s “red wave”, hanging onto his seat against Crewson, 46.28% (CPC) to 39.11% (LPC). However it should be said, the Green party’s showing in that election was unusually poor; Dufferin-Caledon is usually the Green party’s strongest Ontario riding. The NDP, in comparison, is a distant force.
Ultimately, the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada is set to be decided later this spring on May 27, 2017.
Richard Forbes studied Political Science and Philosophy at the University of Waterloo. Winner of the Peter Woolstencroft Prize in Canadian Politics (2015).
And yeah, he’s a Dufferin-Caledon resident.
When asked what ‘one does exactly’ with said degree, he laughs and politely declines to answer. A perfect night for him involves a cup of Lady Grey, writing and a re-run of Yes Minister.