Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown says he’s in favour of putting a price on carbon to help deal with climate change, but he’s still no fan of the Liberals’ cap-and-trade plan.
In his keynote address to more than 1,600 PC convention delegates Saturday, Brown said the official opposition party must change if it wants to form government in 2018, and told delegates he became a Progressive Conservative because of the environment.
“Climate change is a fact, it is a threat. It is man made,” he told the party faithful.
“We have to do something about it, and that something includes putting a price on carbon.”
The line earned only muted applause from the Conservative audience and even some calls of “no.”
Unlike the Liberals’ cap-and-trade plan, which is expected to pull in $1.9 billion in revenues in its first full year, Brown said any price on carbon should be revenue neutral.
“Here in Ontario, we have a cap-and-trade cash grab that is simply another Liberal slush fund,” he said.
Brown, who won the PC leadership in May, 2014, vowed not to repeat the election campaign mistakes of previous party leaders, whom he did not name.
“Never again will our candidates and volunteers have to defend faith-based funding or 100,000 job cuts at the front doors of Ontario voters,” he said. “There is one thing Kathleen Wynne fears more than anything else: a Progressive Conservative party that has the courage to change.”
Brown also moved to dispel Liberal attacks that he is too right wing for mainstream Ontario.
“It doesn’t matter who you love. It doesn’t matter where you worship. It doesn’t matter if you belong to a union,” he said.
Earlier Saturday, the Tories laid out their plans to change tactics for the 2018 election and campaign hard in every riding instead of focusing only on ridings they feel they can win.
The once-mighty Conservatives abandoned wide swaths of the province and alienated would-be Conservative voters simply by targeting only “winnable” ridings in the last election, campaign organizer Walied Soliman told delegates .
“Patrick Brown does not believe in target seats,” he said. “Under our plan there is no Liberal safe seat in Ontario. We have 122 target seats in 2018.”
Soliman told the PC delegates that the party that last held power in 2003 had lost its way and needed to take a new approach to winning the next election.
“Ethnic and faith-based communities … didn’t even know if we were interested in their votes,” said Soliman. “Party members were disillusioned by fake policy processes, and most disturbingly, by a feeling that we were not winners.”
The PC party also announced an extensive consultation of members to develop their platform for the 2018 Ontario election, and said they would open nominations in January 2017, about 18 months ahead of voting day.
The Liberals said they weren’t worried about the Conservatives’ new election strategy under Brown.
“I look at what he’s been trying to do for the past 18 months and the radical group he surrounded himself for his leadership campaign, and now trying to bring a moderate approach … I’m sorry, not at all,” said Liberal MPP Marie-France Lalonde.
The Progressive Conservatives also unveiled a new party logo Saturday, which merges a red P and a blue C with a green leaf joining the two letters.
The delegates also heard a rambling, 35-minute motivational speech by former Toronto Argonauts player and coach Mike “Pinball” Clemons, who party officials said declined his speaking fee as an endorsement of Brown. Clemons left the Ottawa convention centre before reporters could ask if he plans to run for the Tories in the 2018 election.