The only thing that is absolutely certain about Patrick Brown, the new Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, is that he loves the political process. He has attended an enormous number of community events, everywhere from his federal riding in Barrie, Ont., to the state of Gujarat in India – where he made a particularly rewarding connection with the future prime minister of India, Narendra Modi.
Long-time MPP and relatively moderate Christine Elliott was expected to easily win the leadership when the campaign began, but Mr. Brown's relentless contact-making, politicking and membership-selling put him far ahead in the end.
Mr. Brown was rather a silent MP in Ottawa, so it's hard to make out what he stands for. There is evidence of his being a social conservative, but on becoming leader, he was quick to say he would not revisit divisive social issues. He now calls himself a pragmatic conservative, and he points out that he has attended Gay Pride events in Barrie.
His surprising campaign has drawn attention to the fact that there are no limits to campaign contributions from any single person or corporation in Ontario party leadership races – a situation that needs to change. His larger donors range from the proprietor of Canada Cannabis Corp. to the owner of the Barrie Colts hockey team, to an onion-farming corporation and the owner of a chain of hotels across Canada.
The Ontario Liberals have been in power ever since 2003. In the past two provincial elections, the Conservatives, led by Tim Hudak, offered a platform and a tone modelled on what got them Mike Harris elected in the mid-1990s. It might as well have been called Common Sense Revolution II. They are still in opposition.
Mr. Brown needs to win a seat in the Legislature before long, but more importantly, he needs to articulate a substantial reason why people should vote for his party, one that is neither dogmatic nor vacuous. The next election is not until 2018, but the province needs an Official Opposition that can present a serious alternative to the Liberals. There's a strong suspicion that Mr. Brown will try to win the next election by essentially repeating the strategy of the past two, or possibly running even further to the right, and doing even less to attract voters beyond the base. That would be a mistake. He and his party have three years to think it over.
Editor's note: A previous version of this editorial incorrectly described Narendra Modi as the president of India. In fact, he is the prime minister.