Wilson stands up for Hudak as leader
Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership hopeful Tim Hudak says he wants to restore middle-class values. Hudak made the comment in a speech to about 60 party members at a breakfast meeting at the Royal Canadian Legion in Creemore on Saturday. Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson, a Hudak supporter, hosted the event. Wilson said he chose Hudak, the member for Niagara West-Glanbrook, over other leadership contenders, Frank Klees, Randy Hillier and Christine Elliot because, “I worked with him for 14 years and found him to be intelligent, competent and honest.” Hudak was Wilson’s parliamentary assistant. Introducing Hudak to the gathering, Wilson said he was impressed by Hudak when, “I was mining minister after him and people kept asking, ‘where’s Tim?’” Wilson refers to Hudak as, “the man who saved the moose.” When the painted plastic moose craze, started by then Toronto mayor Mel Lastman, spread north, Wilson was using one as a charity fundraising promotional prop. Vandals stole his moose. “Tim said, ‘I have a spare moose,’ and brought it up,” Wilson recalled. Wilson said his original moose was later found by the OPP, adding that police said it had been “murdered” and thrown into a ditch. Taking the podium, Hudak said, since then, he’s found it “politically savvy to always have a spare moose.” Hudak told his audience that “(Premier) Dalton McGuinty has had the province on auto pilot for the past five years” and has run up the deficit to an all time high of $14.1 billion, even outspending former NDP premier Bob Rae. He said it’s that kind of spending that has made Ontario a have-not province, adding that his grandparents, who came here from Eastern Europe, would have been shocked at the idea of their adopted province being labeled one of the have-nots. Under McGuinty, the Sunshine List (public servants making over $100,000 a year) has increased by 165 per cent, Hudak pointed out. He said that includes 11 people in the premier’s office. Hudak compared those on the Sunshine List with the many people across the province that, in these economic times, face the decision of whether to put food on the table or pay the rent. One of Hudak’s suggestions is that parents be able to start a $1,000 savings account for each newborn child, which could be contributed to by relatives and would grow tax-free until the child reaches age 18. Then the teen would have the choice of how to use the money. He also aims to improve the education system by enhancing the use of phonics in elementary school and by promoting financial and economic literacy at the secondary school level. To turn the province around, tough decisions are needed, Hudak said, reminding his audience that the government of (former PC Premier) Mike Harris, “made Ontario number one in North America in job creation.” Hudak has a Bachelor of Economics degree, has worked in tourism, helped Wal-Mart Canada launch its stores in this country and served at one time as a Canada Customs border inspector. He joked that as a customs officer, when he saw anyone from Wasaga Beach, Creemore or Collingwood at the border, “I always let you go up the highway with no questions asked. With those from Stayner, it was a different story,” he quipped, much to the delight of his audience. Following his speech, Hudak said he has fond memories of travelling with his parents to Wasaga Beach from their home in Sarnia. He said, “the fire (Beach One November 2007) was a set-back” but expressed confidence that “the Wasaga Beach spirit” has prevailed to get things back on track in short order. Hudak now lives in Wellandport with his wife, Debbie, and their daughter, Miller. He was first elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1995 as the Member for Niagara South. Since then he has served as the Minister of Consumer and Business Services, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and was Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health, Jim Wilson. Voting for the party’s new leader takes place at two locations in the riding – the Wasaga RecPlex, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. June 21, 2009 and the Alliston Legion, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. June 25. Those wishing to cast a ballot must obtain a 2009 Ontario PC membership by May 14.