Monte McNaughton is touring the province to gauge support for a run at the Ontario Conservative Party leadership.
The Lambton-Middlesex-MPP intends to visit 107 ridings by Oct. 20 building a “new conservative coalition” while testing support for the party’s top job.
He’s also launched a website -www.monte.ca – 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 said.
Tory leader Tim Hudak resigned after Premier Kathleen Wynne was re-elected to a majority government.
At presstime, Whitby-Oshawa MPP Christine Elliott was the only declared candidate for leader, with Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod apparently poised to announce her bid.
McNaughton said he wants to develop policies that appeal 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,” he said. “This tour sends a signal that I’m serious about building coalition.”
McNaughton, who lives in Mount Brydges and grew up in Newbury, has hit the road with his wife and one-year-old daughter.
“We are seen as the party of Bay Street. We have to have policies that reflect every day, average people,” he said.
That could mean tax relief for families or improved transportation systems in Toronto so people can spend more time at home and less time commuting, he said.
That could take time because the ‘big business’ leanings of the party run deep. But McNaughton said it can be done.
“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.”
Heather Wright is publisher and editor of The Independent in Petrolia