Provincial election ramp up: Rocco Rossi joins Conservatives in name and not just in fact

Provincial election ramp up: Rocco Rossi joins Conservatives in name and not just in fact

Rumours started swirling last week that former mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi was going to join the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario for the coming October election, and at 10 a.m. today he and Tim Hudak made it official outside Queen’s Park. Rossi will be running in Eglinton-Lawrence, a riding the Tories narrowly lost to Liberal Mike Colle in 2007.  (Technically, today’s announcement is only that Rossi will be seeking the riding nomination—but when the party leader introduces a candidate, the race is not expected to be gruelling.)

This makes us think of that incident nearly a year ago when Rossi gave an interview to the Toronto Star in which he confessed he couldn’t understand why everyone thought he was so conservative and emphasized how much of a granola-munching hippie he was at heart. Those were good times.

According to the Globe and Mail, which broke the news before it was made official:

Bernie Morton, the Tory strategist who ran Mr. Rossi’s mayoral campaign, said Mr. Rossi had been juggling multiple options, but had vowed to make a decision by his birthday this Sunday…

Mr. Rossi grew up in Toronto’s east end — “the proud son,” he would often say in campaign speeches, “of Italian immigrants” who came to Canada empty-handed. He won scholarships to Upper Canada College, McGill University and Princeton.

Before today’s announcement, reports were that Rossi was entertaining options from both parties, but it’s not hard to see why the Liberals might have had second thoughts: between Rossi’s incessant bashing of e-health and the perceived slight of not endorsing George Smitherman when he dropped out of the race, the Grits had more than enough reason to say no.

We’re actually kind of fond of Rossi—he’s the only one of the five major candidates who seemed to enjoy the mayoral race—but to call this a big win for the Tories is a stretch. The last poll before he left the race had Rossi at 4 per cent citywide, and his record in politics before that doesn’t speak to runaway success either. Rossi is, by many accounts, the man who first suggested bringing Michael Ignatieff back to Canada to run for the Liberals. Sure, Iggy’s had some good days lately, but they come nearly five years after his arrival on the federal politics scene. Not exactly a blockbuster hit for Big Red.

While much is being said about the Liberal crack-up over Rossi’s jump to the right, we wanted to note in particular Rossi being endorsed by Stefan Baranski, the former communications director for—wait for it—George Smitherman. Baranski was one of the “Tories for George,” so this isn’t particularly shocking, but the news has left us nostalgic for the weirdness of the mayoral election. If we’re really lucky, the Tories will bring back the mobster ads.

Ex-Liberal fundraiser Rocco Rossi expected to run for Ontario Tories [Globe and Mail]
Former Toronto mayoral candidate Rossi to run for Tories [Toronto Star]
Ex-Ignatieff lieutenant’s defection leaves bad taste in Liberal mouths [Globe and Mail]
• Rossi to seek provincial Tory nomination in Toronto [CBC News]