By Doug Hallett
Harness racing driver Anthony MacDonald was acclaimed Guelph’s Progressive Conservative candidate for the next provincial election.
“We have a good candidate,” said Greg Schirk, a businessman who finished second to MPP Liz Sandals in the 2011 election.
MacDonald “has the time, he can raise the money, he has everything it takes to run a campaign,” Schirk who took over as interim president of the Guelph Provincial PC Association a few days ago when Allan Boynton resigned as president.
Schirk, who was previously the association’s vice-president, was planning to stand for president at the association’s annual general meeting, which was scheduled to be held just before last night’s nomination meeting at the Evergreen Seniors Centre.
MacDonald, 35, is described as one of Canada’s top drivers in harness racing. He announced in July that he’d seek the party’s nomination to run in the next election. He lives in the city’s south end with his wife and daughter.
Schirk said he’s sure there will be a general election in Ontario next year, but he’s not sure about the timing.
“I think the NDP feel buoyed that they made some gains” after Catherine Fife won a byelection in Kitchener-Waterloo in early September, he said.
“I think they see the Liberal Party going sideways and think they can take some of their seats . . . I think the PCs feel the same thing.”
The Liberals plan to choose a new leader and premier at a leadership convention on Jan. 26, and candidates have until Nov. 23 to enter the race to replace Premier Dalton McGuinty, who is resigning.
Schirk said he thinks former cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello is the favourite in the Liberal leadership race.
If she becomes leader and premier, the need for her to win a byelection before leading her party into a general election likely means Ontarians wouldn’t choose a new government until early next summer, he said.
“I don’t know what their agenda is,” so the timing of an election isn’t entirely clear, he said of the minority Liberal government.
“They are going to have to introduce a budget in the spring, and I would think both parties will try to vote that down.”
Pupatello, 50, who became a Windsor-area MPP in 1995 and held a number of cabinet posts over the years, didn’t run in the 2011 election and instead took a Bay Street job in Toronto.
“I think Pupatello is a pit bull,” Schirk said, adding he thinks she didn’t run in 2011 in order to position herself for a leadership run.
“I think she has the money behind her and the power, and I think she’s the one who is probably going to pull away” in the leadership race, he said.
Pupatello has headed the ministries of education, community and social services, and economic development and trade.