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At convention, Ontario PCs attempt to put a new face on the party

Ontario Progressive Conservatives unveiled a new red, blue and green logo at its convention March 05, 2016

Ontario Progressive Conservatives unveiled a flashy red, blue and green logo, showing an intertwined PC to represent unity, as leader Patrick Brown ‎attempts to put a new face on the party.

About 1700 delegates, including 450 youth, are attending the party's weekend convention in Ottawa, the first convention for Mr. Brown as leader.

The convention is kick-starting a year-long policy process that is meant to engage grassroots. There has been much criticism that former leader Tim Hudak and his insiders framed the failed policy for the 2014 election, including the disastrous plan to cut 100,000 public service jobs.

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Mr. Hudak is not at the convention.

Critics of Mr. Brown have pointed out that it is not clear what he stands for and needs to outline his position on numerous issues.

The policy, however, will not be discussed until a convention in March 2017.

After 17 years and four election defeats, PCs are hoping to regain power and beat Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals in the 2018 provincial election.

‎In addition to the new logo, delegates heard from motivational speaker and former CFL star Michael "Pinball" Clemons. He talked about being "all-in", which is the theme for this convention, and the importance of his mother's support to his success.

A senior Brown official said strong possibility that Mr. Clemons will run for them in 2018, though no riding has yet been selected.

In thanking Mr. Clemons, Mr. Brown referred to him as part of the "team."

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‎"I am not really asking you to change ... so much as we are asking you to grow," said Mr. Clemons to applause.

He talked about leadership, being a good father and that "people are the most important." He also recited poetry.

"I want to challenge us to be more respectful. Real respect means that this party has to make room for Liberals," he said to tepid applause.

His speech was long and rambling. ‎Party officials say he was not paid for the speech.

The presence of the sports hero is part of Mr. Brown and his team's ‎efforts to show a new revitalized party. There have been numerous references to Mr. Brown's energy ‎and work ethic. (He has a refrigerator full of Red Bull in his office.)

At the Friday night opening ceremonies, the Tory MPPs all wore hockey sweaters from their communities – another sports and energy reference.

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‎Bay St. lawyer Walied Soliman, a long-time friend of Mr. Brown who was instrumental in Mr. Brown's leadership win last May, opened the Saturday morning session. He is the chair for the 2018 election campaign.

"I want Kathleen Wynne and David Herle (her campaign strategist) and every Liberal spy in the room to hear this," he said. He said Mr. Brown does not "believe" in targeting seats and will be campaigning in the 122 seats across Ontario.

"Under our plan there is no Liberal safe seat in Ontario," he said.

The party will begin nominating candidates in early 2017 – 18 months before the election.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More


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