The hour between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday is hardly prime time for talk radio, but Tim Hudak, the former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader, is making the most of it.
As host of the brand new and less-than-imaginatively named The Tim Hudak Show on Toronto radio station Newstalk 1010 and on Ottawa's CFRA, Mr. Hudak is covering topics that range from grilling – how to barbecue the perfect steak for your girlfriend or your in-laws – to his admission that he is a closet wrestling fan and the Ontario government's controversial decision to adopt a new autism program. Last Sunday, he talked about the Fort McMurray devastation and whether climate change played a role.
So far, he has done six shows and is finding his groove. His biggest fan, his mother, Anne Marie, listens in her car because she cannot get the radio station signal at her Fort Erie home.
At Queen's Park, the former leader, who is now a backbench MPP, has found a compelling issue and one that has attracted a lot of media attention – the so-called sharing economy. A big fan of Uber and home-sharing apps, Mr. Hudak says this new economy empowers people and meshes with his values and that he believes it will be important in the future.
He introduced a private member's bill that would require provincewide rules to govern the sharing economy, including Uber, AirBnB and parking-spot apps such as Rover. It would make Ontario the first province in the country with uniform guidelines.
Mr. Hudak stepped down as leader after the Conservatives were not able to beat the Liberals in the 2014 provincial election and form government and Patrick Brown replaced him. After keeping a low profile for a while, Mr. Hudak is finding new roles for himself.
As Mr. Brown has worked to become better known to Ontario voters, some in his caucus say a little tension and jealousy is coming from the leader's office over Mr. Hudak's newfound fame.
Mr. Hudak and the leader's office say this is not the case.
However, it is never easy for a former leader who remains in the caucus to navigate his or her way around the politics and personality of a new leader.
"Patrick as a leader has to go in a direction he feels in his heart is the right direction," Mr. Hudak says. "It's never going to be the same as the previous leader … so I said, 'What is an area that is going to motivate me where I can still contribute?'"
That's how he came to champion his sharing-economy bill. In addition, he says he will still lend his advice, but his role primarily is to "support Patrick and support our caucus members."
Stockwell Day knows what that is like. In 2002, the former B.C. MP lost the leadership of the Canadian Alliance to Stephen Harper. But he ended up becoming an effective and very senior member of Mr. Harper's cabinet.
In an interview this week, Mr. Day said undermining the leader was "verboten" and "neutrality was never an option." He immediately told his supporters and anyone else who would listen that he was solidly behind his leader.
"In any leadership, once there is a new man or woman, the grumblers will quietly come to you," he said, adding that as the former leader, he was watched carefully by the other caucus members. So he told the grumblers right away that whatever issue they had would be worked out by the new leader.
"You are watched with extra scrutiny," he said. "Any sign of hesitancy will be magnified … [and there] will be division."
As an MPP, Mr. Hudak looks more fit and rested than he did as leader. Still, he says, "I would rather look like hell and fix the province, [but] it's not what fate had for me."
Mr. Hudak says he would never use his radio show to take shots at his leader.
"I am a team player," he says. "Having been leader and asked people to be part of the team, I am not about to say I am an exception to that rule."
Instead, he sticks to water-cooler topics or provincial issues on which he might not be on side with the Wynne government.
A couple of Sundays ago, for example, he interviewed an expert about how to get a groundhog out of his backyard. But he also tackled the autism issue in his own way, talking frankly about his 8-year-old daughter, Miller, who has a severe speech impediment.
Early intervention has helped Miller to speak and he was relating that to parents of autistic children who are angry over the Wynne government decision to adopt a new autism program, the consequence of which will end therapy for kids when they turn five years old.
His mother, listening in her car, thought the bit about the groundhog was hilarious; the segment about autism and her granddaughter made her cry.