Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP testing the waters for leadership bid

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Lambton-Middlesex-MPP Monte McNaughton is touring the province gauging support for a run for the leadership of the Ontario Conservative Party.

Tory leader Tim Hudak resigned on election night after Premier Kathleen Wynne was reelected to a majority government. That led to speculation about who might lead the Conservatives next.

At press time, Whitby-Oshawa MPP Christine Elliott is the only declared candidate. Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod was set to announce her bid for the top job.

On Saturday, McNaughton started a province-wide tour with his wife and one-year-old daughter. He plans to visit 107 ridings by Oct. 20 in an effort to build a “new conservative coalition” and gauge whether there is enough support for him to run for the party’s top job. He’s also launched a website – where people can follow the tour.

“I’ve made hundreds of phone calls and visited many ridings and I’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received,” McNaughton told The Independent.

“We need to build a new Conservative coalition here in Ontario,” says the MPP who lives in Mount Brydges and grew up in Newbury. “Over the last number of elections we’ve gauged 30 to 35 percent voter support…in order to win government we have to bring more people into the party.”

McNaughton wants to develop policies which would be appealing to young families, university and college students, blue-collar workers and new Canadians. The MPP was recently named the Conservatives lead on citizenship and immigration.

“I think our party has failed miserably in connecting with those four groups in the last few years,” says McNaughton. “This tour sends a signal that I’m serious about building coalition.

“We are seen as the party of Bay Street,” concedes McNaughton who dubbed the tour The Main Street not Bay Street tour. “We have to have policies that reflect every day average people.”

McNaughton says that could mean tax relief for families or improved transportation systems in Toronto so people could spend more time at home instead of commuting.

That could take time since the ‘big business’ leanings of the party run deep. But McNaughton says it can be done.

“Many blue collar workers in Ontario are conservative minded. We have to reach out to them…one of the things our party has failed at is coming up with policies that appeal to blue collar workers, we failed to do that in the last four elections and lost every one. We have to listen to what they want.”