By Tyler Renaud
BELLEVILLE – Todd Smith says he is not going to run for the leadership of the Ontario Conservatives despite his well-publicized criticism of the party’s outgoing leader.
Smith, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Prince Edward-Hastings, last week criticized Tim Hudak for poor communication that he said might have cost the Conservatives the June 12 provincial election.
That in turn led to public speculation that Smith himself might seek the leadership after Hudak steps down.
“No, I won’t be running for the leadership,” Smith told QNet News in an interview Monday morning. “However, I would like to be part of the inner circle when we do choose our new leader.”
Smith was one of the Conservatives lucky enough to retain a seat after a rocky campaign by their party and a majority win by the Liberals. After the election, Smith and other Conservative MPPs – including Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington’s Randy Hillier – voiced their displeasure about Hudak’s performance to the media.
Discontent with Hudak is widespread in the party, Smith told QNet News.
“There was a lot of frustration within our caucus and a lot of frustration among candidates right across the province,” he said.
They were especially upset with the communication within the party, he said. Smith and other Conservatives have said they were caught off-guard by Hudak’s May 9 announcement that he would cut 100,000 public-sector jobs.
“A lot of (Conservative candidates) were expressing frustration with me about how the campaign rolled out, and the fact that many of them were blindsided,” Smith said. “Many felt betrayed with the fact that we were promised that there would be no surprises during the campaign.”
The promise to cut 100,000 public-sector jobs was a policy that Conservative candidates were unable to campaign around properly, Smith said.
“Certainly early on in the campaign we received a very major surprise that a lot of our candidates were unable to contend with, or deal with, or communicate properly.”
He and other Conservative MPPs feel like Hudak’s campaign handed the election to the Liberals, he said on the Lorne Brooker talk show on CJBQ Radio the day after the election.
“Tim Hudak and the PCs lost this election … we should have won,” Smith told Brooker. “This election was ours for the taking. In my opinion there has never been a government that should have been ejected more than the Liberal government we were up against.”