Prime Minister Stephen Harper advised him to come up with a clear, succinct message, much like the five-point plan he campaigned on during the federal election two years ago. Former Ontario premier Mike Harris talked about the importance of reaching out to grassroots Tories.
Since John Tory's crushing defeat in last October's election, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader has sought advice from politicians who won elections after losing the first time around.
He too is hoping for a second chance when his leadership is put to a vote at the party's annual convention in London, Ont. tomorrow.
Mr. Tory needs the support of only 50 per cent plus one of delegates at the convention to stay on as leader - a target he is widely expected to achieve. But he knows he needs much more than the minimum threshold set out in the party's rules before questions about his leadership can be put to rest.
The convention will bring together Mr. Tory's supporters and leaders of a campaign seeking to oust him. The Together With Tory campaign released a letter yesterday signed by 33 MPPs and grassroots supporters in Southwestern Ontario endorsing his leadership.
"A change in leadership will only delay our preparation for victory in 2011," the letter says, echoing similar missives sent from other regions.
Rueben Devlin, head of the Grassroots PC campaign seeking a leadership review, countered that Mr. Tory has not learned from his political failures. "We can't afford to risk another defeat," he said in a letter.
Sources close to Mr. Tory said he considered resigning on election night after he lost his own seat and his controversial policy on religious schools helped Dalton McGuinty's Liberals glide to a second majority.
Instead, he decided to fight for the job he has held for the past 3½ years by embarking on a long and often painful postmortem of what went wrong. Mr. Harper telephoned Mr. Tory shortly after the election and stressed the importance of being concise, the sources said.
Mr. Harper also talked about the importance of connecting with grassroots members of the party. This was a clear reference to Mr. Tory's efforts to position himself as a moderate in the mould of his mentor, former Ontario premier Bill Davis. Mr. Tory's ascension to the leadership of the party in the fall of 2004 marked the end of the Common Sense Revolution started by Mr. Harris. But some of Mr. Tory's critics say he has alienated the party's right wing by veering too far to the left.
Mr. Harris also talked about the need to have a consistent, simplistic message and to get grassroots party members involved in the policy-making process, the sources said.
The four months have been difficult for Mr. Tory, the sources said. He has visited 82 of the province's 107 ridings since the election, talking to party members. It is not in his nature to be adversarial. He and his wife, Barbara Hackett, have found the fighting within the party particularly difficult, one of the sources said.
The infighting continued this week after Andrew Brander, one of Mr. Tory's supporters, launched challenges to the eligibility of about 60 delegates on the grounds that they are representing ridings where they do not live. Those close to Mr. Tory said his detractors have also launched challenges.