The fledgling Reform Party of Ontario is appealing to Progressive Conservatives disillusioned with party leader John Tory to join their right-wing ranks. In an email appeal apparently sent to thousands of Tories in recent days, the new party claims Reform is “the new home” for people who support the policies of former premier Mike Harris.
“Mike Harris brought sanity to Ontario with two majority governments. Sadly, since Iron Mike retired, we’ve seen Ontario slide badly,” says the missive, which invites people to a June 21 meeting in London.
“The Liberals, bolstered by the ineffectual opposition of John Tory and (NDP Leader) Howard Hampton, will continue to bring Ontario more of the same,” it continues.
“There is an alternative. The Common Sense Revolution didn’t die. It just has a new home … the Reform Party of Ontario.”
A source close to Harris emphasized the former premier has nothing to do with the group and did not give permission for his name to be used.
“During the early 1990s, when Reform was growing federally, Mike Harris was successful in keeping Reform out of provincial politics,” noted the Harris confidant.
Reform takes its name from the defunct Western-based party that splintered from the federal Progressive Conservatives and enabled the Liberals to govern for 13 years until Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s reunited Conservatives took power in 2006.
Andrew Long, the party’s chief financial officer, said he is not worried about the same thing happening in Ontario. Long said the party is home to former federal Reformers as well as provincial Tories and Liberals, and members of the radical rural group, the Ontario Landowners Association.
“I am not happy with John Tory whatsoever,” he said, noting Tory “single-handedly lost the election” last Oct. 10 with the controversial pledge to expand funding of faith-based schools.
While Reform ran two candidates in that election, the party hopes to field a larger slate in the 2011 vote.
Party leader Brad Harness, a former federal Reform member, said yesterday word of the burgeoning movement has spread through the Internet.
“We’re really pleased by the response,” said Harness.