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Tim Hudak spent his life climbing the Tory ladder and now he has a shot at taking over Queen’s Park—but can he convince voters he’s more than just Mike Harris lite?

Tim Hudak

Tim Hudak is riding in the back of an RV, a big, bouncy RV wrapped in an enormous picture of his smiling face, and he’s coming to see you. He’s really happy. So happy that he’s tweeting about it on his BlackBerry. “Outstanding,” he types, and, “On my way…” Now he’s peering out the front window, over the driver’s shoulder, toward one of the event venues where he’s going to meet you. “Shit, has this thing started?” He doesn’t want to be late. He wants to look you in the eyes and tell you what he thinks, and he wants to listen to you, too. The whole big meet-and-greet ball of wax: he loves it. This is who he is. “It gets in your blood, right?” he asks. Although that’s not actually a question. Putting “right?” at the end of certain things he says is just Tim Hudak’s way. “You are who you are, right?” he says. “I’m Tim Hudak.”

The man running to be Ontario’s next premier fuelled up for the day at The Egg and I in Stoney Creek, with black coffee, eggs over-easy, brown toast and sausages. This is not typical for Hudak. Normally he’s a cereal man. He has five kinds of cereal in his cupboard and can rhyme off all the popular brands from his youth—Franken Berry, Count Chocula, Cap’n Crunch, Lucky Charms (“They’re magically delicious!” he says). But today he had a big breakfast, because he needs lots of energy, because he’s going to spend the whole day shaking your hand.

Across from him in the RV sits his principal secretary and deputy chief of staff, Carrie Kormos. Smart, slender and blond, Kormos has known Hudak all her life. She grew up with him on the same quiet street in Fort Erie, watched him shoot baskets with his friends in the Hudak driveway. She has worked for him, off and on, ever since he began in politics, and she speaks of him now with a disciple’s passion, often referring to him as “The Leader.” On this morning, Kormos has eaten no breakfast because the face-plastered RV has such notoriously bad suspension that most staffers who ride in it become nauseated. “Everybody,” she says, “but The Leader.”

For 16 years, Hudak has been travelling the back roads of his Niagara West–Glanbrook riding, hitting one event after another: barbecues, church dinners, 50th wedding anniversaries. Lynette Corbett, his chief of staff, says, “Tim really is a phenomenal local politician.” He knows the area’s routes so intimately that he likens himself to one of the Dukes of Hazzard (“although I don’t jump over anything”) and mocks his staff’s reliance on GPS. But the leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party spends so much time grinning and glad-handing at one event after another that he takes longer than he should. That means Avi Yufest, the young political operative tasked with driving the RV, has to rush between stops, and…is that a siren?

Hudak lifts his head. “That doesn’t sound good,” he says.

The police are pulling over Tim Hudak’s RV.

“Oh, Avi,” says Kormos.

While the leader of Ontario’s official opposition stays seated at the centre table, alert but apparently unconcerned, the officer informs Avi that he has been monitoring the speed of his vehicle, and it has been consistently 20 to 25 kilometres an hour over the limit.

“Are you late for something?” the officer asks.

“Yeah,” says Avi, “we’re trying to get Mr. Hudak to Grimsby.” In the back, Hudak chuckles and dips his head.

After a check of Avi’s driver’s licence and an aborted search for the RV’s registration, the officer lets him off with a warning.

“Thanks very much,” calls Hudak from his seat. “’Preciate it!”

“Check your mirrors once in a while,” says the officer as he turns. “Because I’ve had my lights on for quite some time trying to get your attention.”

“Jesus,” Hudak mutters. And when they’re finally underway, he grins sheepishly and calls forward to the driver. “Sorry about that, Avi. I shook too many hands!”

  • Tdot

    Great article. Seems like a nice guys….sort of. Anyone who doesn’t invite his best friend to his wedding can be trusted.

  • CEE

    Cant be trusted. Too negative, only find faults with dalton and does not com eout with his own propositions. More reactive than proactive. I am surely not liberal but I like leaders versus managers and Hudak is a manager. Ever ask yourselves Toronto, he balks and kill dalton so much about the HST, WHY is he not telling us he will scrap it?! Cause he is a red face two timing Mike Harris waiting to cut your services, send men in orange suits along the highway and cut jobs like its never been done. DONT TRUST HIM! Remember, I warned you all about Ford and see ?! GEE!

  • tina

    seems nice, but the ‘attack’ ads suggest otherwise… if he was such an upstanding guy, why would he go after Dalton for the HST when he has no intention of rescinding it? Why would he support that recent, very questionable flyer? this article doesn’t convince me.

  • TD

    Read this article in the magazine. That was the most misleading cover headline of all time. Was prepared to read a scathing portrait of this guy, but instead got a pretty favourable biography. I mean, I’m fine with whatever way the writers chooses to portray the guy, but it would be nice if the story in some way matched the cover headline promises.

  • paul reichert

    He’s Dick Cheney disguised as a chipmunk. That does sum him up.

  • Dieter Reimers

    This Guy is “wishi-washi”, don’t trust him !! How much did Tim Hudak pay Trevor Cole for this article ? The ‘attack’-ads on Dalton shows his real character ? His personality is lousy, and he wants to take charge of Queens Park ?? GOD HELP US ALL !!!

  • amiv

    Instead of the HST, I think Mr. Hudak should have been hammering the Liberals about eHealth and our lost hundreds of millions with nothing to show for it — except jobs for Liberal supporters and staffers.

  • Luis

    Howdy! This post couldn’t be wtertin any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this post to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  • Mousta

    This is NEWS???? I do believe the word posrime is also included in this speech. That is, after all, a word commonly used by politicians but posrimes are seldom if ever honoured.We have also heard for years, from all parties, that the government will increase the numbers of doctors and nurses. It never happens. Are they going to pull these non-existent people out of their butts? Not enough doctors are available to fill the gaps and fewer young people are going into nursing due to the hours, working conditions, etc. In addition, some geniuses closed down the hospital schools of nursing which produced some of the best nurses in the world (Canadian nurses were not only welcome but in demand everywhere). This increased costs for the students involved and added the study of subjects that had no practical application in the field. These student nurses, no offence to them, had less and less practical experience and seldom could hit the ground running as hospital trained nurses could do. All this at a time when nurses were despaerately needed. A brilliant move. This posrime is all just the same old regurgitated crap.Throwing more money at health care is also not the solution. Getting priorities straight and eliminating the waste (E-health fiascos and bonuses for desk jockeys at all levels for example) and ridiculously excessive numbers of administrators and office bound idiots could solve most if not all of the endemic problems in the system with no or very little increase in expenditure. Throwing good money after bad never solved anything and never will. Since when did front line nurses get a bonus for a job well done??? NEVER! You do a good job because you are proud of your job and because can and should, not in order to get a bonus.In conclusion, PROMISES, PROMISES, PROMISES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!