Rob, I was quite surprised to see that Matt actually lost the race in Ottawa South despite leading by 14 points going into the weekend. Or at least that's what the polling was indicating.
The Liberal Party has never been weaker. If the Tory's can only win 1/5 by-elections when they are so vulnerable, its hard to see how the PC Party is going to win the next provincial election.
As a political communications expert, I know what the problem is that's keeping the PC's from getting over the hump. The answer to winning lies in the Party's platform and the extreme positions it has taken, especially when it comes to green energy solutions.
For example, I learned this week at the Climate Reality Project training with Al Gore in Chicago (which I attended), that one in seven Ontario farmers has invested in solar or wind installations. I also know PC-lifers who, as smart businessmen and innovators, have embraced the new business opportunities the Feed-in-Tariff is creating. So, trashing the industry and threatening to shut it down is not going to resonate with many within the PC's prime constituency, let alone urban voters.
If the PC's want to win the next election, they need to tone down the rhetoric, focus on facts not propaganda, and appeal to the majority rather than pandering to their base. Navel gazing never works. I've told the Greens this many times in the past, yet they also fail to fully grasp its implications.
Simply put, to gain new votes in an election you need to appeal to people who are not members or supporters of your party. This means coming up with a message that, while still allowing the Party to remain true to itself, is also welcoming and empowering to voters who do not normally vote Conservative.
It should be clear now, after the results of the August 1st by-elections, that the PC Party base, and the views expressed by its members, do not represent the majority in Ontario. If you want to win the next election, the PC leadership needs to come to terms with this reality and devise a strategy that can overcome it.