According to a recent poll, Ontario Progressive Conservative party Leader John Tory is trailing badly in his own riding of Don Valley West. For genuine conservatives, this is good news.

Let there be no mistaking: Tory is neither a fiscal nor a social conservative. He is leading his nominally conservative party to defeat, by offering voters little more than a slightly watered-down version of the same liberalism espoused by the Liberals.

Consider the fiscal policies proposed by the two parties. While Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is promising to increase program spending to a whopping $96.6 billion in 2012, up from $82.2 billion this year, Tory says his government would increase spending to $96.3 billion, minus $1.5 billion in unspecified savings and efficiencies.

On the fiscal side, there is only one significant difference: Tory promises to eliminate the Ontario health premium tax, which the McGuinty Liberals introduced, despite having repeatedly promised during the last election they would not impose any tax increases. Now McGuinty insists the new health tax must be retained on the grounds the $2.7 billion in annual revenue it generates is essential to boosting health-care spending and balancing the Ontario budget.

The Liberals and Conservatives also used to differ over Tory’s promise to extend public funding to all religious schools that agree to abide by the Ontario curriculum. Since the election campaign started, McGuinty has been successfully hammering away at this key Tory policy. And now, in the face of impending defeat, Tory has essentially scuttled his own proposal by promising a free vote on the issue in the legislature.

On the most vital issue of all, there is no difference between McGuinty and Tory: Both favour unbridled abortion on demand. In the case of McGuinty, this stance is all the more disgraceful because he professes to know as a Roman Catholic that all human life is sacred.

McGuinty and Tory also support same-sex marriage. However, Tory outdid even McGuinty in bidding for the homophile vote, by having himself declared an honorary “distinguished patron” of the Queer Youth Video Project at Toronto’s annual Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Granted, Tory does not represent all Progressive Conservative candidates. Many, including most of those in the London area, are genuine fiscal and social conservatives. Take, for example, Rob Alder in London-North-Centre and Jim Chapman in London-Fanshawe. In response to an all-candidates’ questionnaire published on the Internet by Citizen Impact Canada, Alder and Chapman have both indicated they strongly oppose government funding for abortion on demand; support full disclosure of all relevant medical information to persons considering an abortion; and would direct all child-care subsidies directly to parents so they can freely choose the best available child care.

Voters who are fed up with runaway government spending, ever-rising taxes and misguided government policies should search out and vote for candidates like Alder and Chapman who stand the best chance of getting elected in their riding and making a difference for the better in the Ontario legislature. These same voters should also hope Tory is soundly defeated, quits politics and clears the way for the selection of a more inspiring leader for the Ontario Progressive Conservative party.

In a referendum accompanying Wednesday’s election, voters will be asked to choose between retaining the province’s existing voting system or adopting a mixed-member proportional (MMP) system that would entail the creation of two classes of MPPs: 90 elected as they are now by a simple plurality in single-member constituencies and another 39 drawn from lists of candidates chosen by the political parties and elected essentially in proportion to each party’s share of the province-wide vote.

With MMP in effect, it would be practically impossible to defeat any politician appointed near the top of the list for one of the major parties. For this reason alone, voters should reject MMP. It would be far better to stick with the existing system than to adopt a less democratic system of proportional representation that would give an array of party favourites a virtual lock on a seat.

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