A Commentary by Doug Draper
Well here we finally are. It is Thursday, February 13th and it is finally up to voters across the provincial Riding of Niagara Falls to decide who is going to be their next MPP.
The riding, which includes Niagara Falls and the neighbouring towns of Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake has been hotly contested by all three major parties – the Liberals, which held it for 10 years until Kim Craitor suddenly decided to get out of provincial politics last year, the Conservatives and NDP – and no one has worked longer and harder to win the riding than Tory candidate Bart Maves and the party’s leader Tim Hudak.
While all three candidates – Liberal Joyce Morocco, NDP Wayne Gates, both Niagara Falls city councillors, and Maves, a regional councillor for Niagara Falls who was the riding’s MPP for two terms during Tory Premier Mike Harris’s years – were officially nominated by their Falls riding associations only a few weeks ago, Maves has been the presumed candidate for the Tories for the better part of a year now. What’s more, Hudak, whose old hometown is Fort Erie, has hardly let a week go by over the past three or four months where he hasn’t been out there, working the riding with Maves. Media advisories from PC headquarters, alerting editors and reporters to yet another heads up on a Hudak/Maves announcement and/or photo opportunity somewhere in the riding, have come fast and furious as last Fall turned to this Winter. So Hudak has invested one helluva lot of time and energy in working the Niagara Falls Riding with his former Tory caucus mate Maves as he hopes to get him back into the caucus again.
Only problem is that the race in Niagara Falls is almost too close to call with Gates, who only got into it three weeks ago, giving Maves the most run for his money. In fact, one poll reported in The Toronto Star and Globe and Mail over the past couple of days, has gates leading by 48 per cent, with Maves trailing at 33 per cent and Morocco far behind at 17 per cent.
Of course polls are polls, and they have been wrong before. But if this one, conducted by Forum Research and the only one that has surfaced publicly to date, is right, a loss for Hudak in his old backyard, even if his party wins another by-election this February 13th, as it is expected it will, in the Toronto area riding of Norfolk, it could be a real body blow to his leadership in the party.
Indeed, if Hudak can’t win his old sidekick another seat at Queen’s Park in his home turf, how confident will a provincial Conservative Party, that is already internally debating his Tea Party-like union busting strategies, feel about him leading it into a general election, that could come as early as this spring?
Would the party even want to make any further moves to defeat the minority Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne with Hudak as a leader.
If Hudak can’t win the Niagara Falls Riding this February 13th after all the many months of work he and his old party comrade Maves have put into it, then many in his party may feel that his wanting to draw the Liberals and NDP into a general election with him as leader might be something akin to General Custer baiting for a fight at the Little Big Horn.
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