Federal D-C Tories set to hold nomination meeting Friday

May 21, 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Bill Rea and James Matthews – In the midst of a provincial election campaign, Dufferin-Caledon federal Conservatives are ready to pick their candidate for the next election.

Long-time incumbent MP David Tilson will be facing a vigorous challenge from Palgrave area resident Paul Hong.

The nomination meeting is set for tomorrow (Friday) night in the Oak Room of the Orangeville fairgrounds Event Centre.

Mr. Hong, who just turned 35 yesterday, is a former senior policy advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, serving six years in that role under several ministers. In addition to his work at Foreign Affairs, Mr. Hong served for 13 years as a naval officer in the Canadian military. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (Navy) in 2004. He also served as a military aide-de-camp to the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. He is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada’s Master of War Studies program and the Sea Cadet Program in Bolton.

Like Mr. Tilson, he is also a lawyer by training who was called to the Bar in 2007.

After the challenger made his intentions known last month, Mr. Tilson told The Citizen that his electoral record shows there’s no need to challenge him for the nomination. His record at the polls doesn’t give any indication the riding is in danger of changing from Tory Blue to Grits Red.

Now 73, Mr. Tilson was a Progressive Conservative member of the Ontario Legislature from 1990 to 2002, and was first elected to the House of Commons in 2004, having earlier resigned his legislature seat to permit a byelection that saw then-premier Ernie Eves get a seat in the provincial House.

On Wednesday, Mr. Tilson reiterated his confidence that the riding association continues to have faith in him. Nominations are different than federal elections, he said. They’re about who sells the most memberships.

When asked if the surprise challenge could be interpreted as an attack against him, he simply said, “you’d have to ask him (Mr. Hong).”

“It’s unusual for somebody to challenge a sitting incumbent,” Mr. Tilson said, and added that he has the most name recognition in the riding and that he’s eager to represent Dufferin-Caledon whenever Parliament is dissolved and Prime Minister Stephen Harper drops the writ.

“The job in Ottawa is the best job in the world and I love it,” Mr. Tilson said.

Mr. Tilson unseated Liberal MP Murray Calder in the 2004 federal general election following the merger of the Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance parties. He eked out the win and ended the Liberals decade-long reign. His margins of victory increased in each of the 2006 and 2008 campaigns, leading in every poll in the 2011 contest when he garnered as much as 59 per cent of the vote.

“This was the result of a strong team all pulling together,” Mr. Tilson said after hearing about the attempt to supplant his candidacy. “I would say it is unnecessary to challenge me now when I have proven myself to be a strong representative in Ottawa. The residents of Dufferin-Caledon, and the members of the local Conservative Party of Canada, echo that thought.

“They have told me they are confident in my leadership and I am assured of their continued support in this nomination race and the next federal election.”

The Hong camp has distributed a colourful brochure throughout the riding that features photos of Mr. Hong and a number of Conservative Party veterans and sitting MPs, including the Prime Minister. There are also a number of testimonials that all heap praise on the former backroom advisor.

“It is time for renewal for the Conservative Party of Canada in the riding of Dufferin-Caledon,” Mr. Hong’s brochure reads. “Renewal is the feedback that I’ve received repeatedly on the phone and at the doors of our members in the last month.

“Renewal is what will best prepare us against Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party for many elections to come. Renewal is why I am seeking the nomination to be your Conservative candidate for the election in 2015 and many elections beyond. Renewal is a vital part of the political process. The decision to renew is often a difficult one.”

He said he has great respect for Mr. Tilson and that the riding association and the party should be thankful to the incumbent. But, in the end, he said “we must have the courage to renew.”

“We must elect a new Conservative nominee who can: breathe new energy into our riding association; renew and grow our ranks by attracting new voters, volunteers, donors, and communities into our tent; and who can convince old and new supporters that he will work tirelessly to listen to them, advocate on their behalf, and deliver what they deserve and are promised.

“Our time to renew is now.”

One veteran party member told the Citizen Wednesday that the Hong campaign has included several letters to party members and repeated telephone calls seeking support, as well as the brochure which he said looked expensive and even shows Mr. Hong posing with Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain.

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