Reform Party of Ontario

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Reform Party of Ontario
Leader Bradley J. Harness
President Joshua E. Eriksen
Founded 1989
Dissolved 2015
Headquarters 415 Scott St. E.
Strathroy, Ontario
W7G 3Y8
Ideology Right-wing populism
Fiscal conservatism
Social conservatism
Libertarian conservatism
Colours Purple Green
Seats in Legislature
0 / 107
Official website
Politics of Ontario
Political parties

The Reform Party of Ontario (RPO) is a deregistered[1] political party in Ontario, Canada. Until the 1999 provincial election, the party ran one candidate each election in order to keep the party's name in the possession of supporters of the Reform Party of Canada.

Although a small group of candidates laid claim to the name, they had to run under the 'Independent Reform' label. After the federal Reform Party became defunct, several independent Reformers revived the RPO name, and the party ran two candidates in the 2007 provincial election and four in the 2011 provincial election.

The Reform Party of Ontario is not to be confused with the pre-Confederation Reform Party, which later became the Ontario Liberal Party, with the leftist United Reform party of the 1940s, or the newly registered populist fiscally, socially, and libertarian conservative New Reform Party of Ontario.

Official Reform Party of Ontario[edit]

Supporters of the federal Reform Party registered the "Reform Party of Ontario" name in 1989, and re-registered it in 1994. This registration was made to prevent anyone else from using the 'Reform' name in Ontario politics; the party nominated one paper candidate in each election and did not campaign actively. Ken Kalopsis, the co-president of the Canadian Alliance, ran for the RPO in the 1999 provincial election in Davenport, as its first candidate to maintain registration and control the rights to the party name. Kalopsis won 174 votes without campaigning.

Federal Reform leader Preston Manning and Premier of Ontario Mike Harris had a good relationship, and it was agreed that the federal Reform Party would not campaign actively provincially in order to prevent vote splitting. The provincial Tories returned the favour by giving some unofficial support to Reform in federal politics.[2]

Robert Beard was the party's leader for RPO in 2002. With the end of the federal Reform Party, the provincial Reform Party was deregistered in September 2003.

Unofficial movement[edit]

In 1993, several strong supporters of the Reform Party of Canada started a movement that advocated for an active Reform party in Ontario.[3] This movement was not affiliated with the federal Reform Party, and thus was prevented from using the Reform Party of Ontario name by Elections Ontario.[4]

After the 1995 general election, the Ontario-based group founded "Grassroots United Against Reform's Demise" (GUARD) to lobby for the Reform Party's participation in provincial politics. "Focus Federally For Reform", which opposed an active party, was formed in response opposing participation. A vast majority of Ontario Reform supporters backed Focus Federally, and Grassroots United lost their bid to have the party enter Ontario politics.[5]

The group supporting a Reform movement in Ontario formed the Reform Association of Ontario (Reform Ontario), cofounded by Kimble F. Ainslie of London and Reg Gosse of Kitchener in 1994. The association was denied party status by the Ontario Election Commission in 1995, and ran unsuccessfully in the 1995 election. Candidates were nominated in Huron—Bruce, Kitchener—Waterloo, London, Ontario district, and other ridings in the Greater Toronto Area for Reform Association of Ontario. The group's aim was to protest the undemocratic decision. The candidates gained very few votes and no candidate was elected.

The Reform Association of Ontario ran a candidate in the 1999 election in Prince Edward—Hastings and in the 2003 election in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. Both were credited as "Independent Reform" candidates, but gained very few votes and no candidate was elected. Running again as an Independent Reformer, the 2003 Reform Ontario candidate for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, Bill Cook, ran in the 2005 Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey by-election, against the Ontario Progressive Conservative leader, John Tory, who won.[6]

The Reform Association for Ontario was renamed the Reform Ontario movement and continued to promote its "Triple 'R' Government" agenda, including recall for removing unpopular politicians and fixed election dates, referenda on the issues such as electoral financing reform and preferential ballot voting, and "real responsible representation" through more free votes for MPPs instead of direction from party whips in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Official party[edit]

The Representative Party of Ontario was formed by and led by Bill Cook, a former Reform Ontario activist from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. When the name was rejected in 2005, the party was then intended to be revived as Ontario Alternative, according to Elections Ontario, a name reserved by Joshua E. Eriksen, a student of political science at Redeemer College and McMaster University in Hamilton.[7] However, as federal Reform Party supporters no longer had possession of the name "Reform Party of Ontario", the name was reclaimed by the provincial Reformers for the 2007 election. Bradley J. Harness, who cofounded the federal Ontario Party of Canada with George Burns in 2002,[8] was selected as its party leader, Cook as its deputy leader and agriculture critic, and Eriksen as its provincial party president.

The RPO ran two candidates: Cook in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and Harness in Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. Eriksen was its campaign manager, but neither candidate gained many votes nor were elected.[9] [10]

Past party president Donn Korbin and chief financial officer Andrew Long pushed to keep the Reform Party of Ontario a true blueprint of the Common Sense Revolution era of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives. During that era, Mike Harris and the Ontario PCs had won two majority governments. Special interest groups like the Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) and its "Rural Revolution" members had maintained a hard right line with the RPO against the Ontario Tories, now led by Red Tory moderate John Tory.[11]

Joining forces, the populist-based RPO and libertarian-based OLA agreed on many common principles to build a unified Northern Rural Ontario manifesto for the farmer and labourer. Three basic principles were identified: "property rights, deamalgamation, and less government yet better governance". RPO party leader Harness and president Eriksen met with OLA president and current Carleton—Mississippi Mills PC MPP Jack MacLaren and eight other senior leaders from the group to hammer out the details.[12] Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox & Addington PC MPP Randy Hillier considered crossing over to Reform in the Ontario Legislature as its first member because of his dissatisfaction with Tory's leadership.[13]

According to the press, Harness had worked out a side deal under which he would become the deputy under Hillier, if Hillier joined Reform Ontario.[14] Hillier declined and then quickly denied any involvement with the side deal, and the strength of both organizations was diminished.[15]

2009 and 2010 by-election campaigns[edit]

On February 4, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that a by-election would be held on March 5, 2009 in Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock to fill the seat vacated by its PC MPP Laurie Scott, who stepped aside so that Progressive Conservative leader John Tory could seek a seat in the legislature.[16]

Reform Party leader Brad Harness announced that Reform planned to run a candidate, and slammed Tory as an "urbanite" who would only appeal to "big C" Conservatives. Harness emphasized Reformers are not only social conservatives, but fiscal conservatives favouring smaller government and greater individual liberties.[17] However, Harness backed down, and the party did not field a candidate.[18]

Harness announced that he would run a Reform candidate in the March 4, 2010 by-election in Ottawa West—Nepean, but then Harness backed down again and did not do so. The RPO then became moribund for months.[19]

Party ideology[edit]

The Reform Party of Ontario, like the Reform Association of Ontario and the Reform Ontario movement before it, was an Ontario provincial version of the federal Reform Party of Canada. Though populism makes up the main thrust of its political ideology, Reform Ontario focused on a mixture of fiscal, social, and libertarian conservatism, on issues of conservation and conscience of the land and its people. Though it had similarities to other Reform-based provincial political parties across Canada, such as the Saskatchewan Party, the Wildrose Party in Alberta, or Reform BC in British Columbia, the Reform Party of Ontario was still more Ontarian than Reform, independently fighting for an Ontario agenda for Ontarians rather than just a Reform one.[20]

RPO supports a reduction in the size of government with its mantra being "less government yet better governance". RPO would balance the budget and pay down the deficit and debt first before cutting taxes. Reform Ontario respect for life, freedom and liberty of the individual, and private ownership of property with limited yet effective government are key principles. They believe the family unit is the basic building block of our society, in a stronger institution of marriage reduces cultural ills and increases labour productivity. RPO believe in more public involvement by the people using private investment for more effective and efficient service in areas of health care, education, and energy, which allow government limited control over personal decisions by its taxpayers.[21]

Three specific policies that made Reform Ontario stand out past the other mainline parties were its "Triple 'R' government", being referenda on the issues such as electoral financing reform and preferential ballot voting, a recall for removing unpopular politicians and fixed election dates, and "real responsible representation" through more free votes for MPPs instead of direction by party whips in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. The party supports consensual government, which is the nonpartisan final solution in grassroots participatory democratic political action. Preston Manning, the founder and leader of the federal Reform Party of Canada, had worked towards consensual government. The party also supports "sovereignty regionalization", which is the idea of allowing municipalities that have been amalgamated the right to deamalgamate, and of strengthening of individual property rights.[22]

2014 and 2015 post-election merger[edit]

Ontario Reformers took one more shot electorally as the Reform Party of Ontario under party leader Brad Harness, competed with four candidates for the 2011 election: Robert Szajkowski in Hamilton Centre, Gerald Augustine in Niagara West–Glanbrook, David Natale in Vaughan, and the party leader Harness in Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. Former Hamilton Mountain PC MPP Trevor Pettit acted as a campaign manager and deputy leader of the party. None of the party's candidate were elected.[23]

The leadership of the party refused to run candidates in the 2014 election and the party was deregistered by Elections Ontario.[24] At an annual general meeting, the Family Coalition Party of Ontario leadership via its newly elected party leader James Gault, deputy leader and director of communications Eric Ames, and president Lynne Scime along with the original party executive, led a move to combine the original traditional moral values of the FCP with the new democratic reform principles of the RPO to create a new merged political entity, the New Reform Party of Ontario. The FCP voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing its name to the New Reform Party of Ontario in a 2015 vote by the grassroots membership. The FCP leadership and party executive lead the new party, including keeping Scime president of the new party, Gault the party's leader, and Ames its deputy leader and director of communications. A democratically participatory policy process began soon after to overhaul its principles, policies, and platform, in time for the next provincial election in 2018, to merge both ideals creating a united front against the Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne.[25]

Some executives of the Reform Party of Ontario and some grassroots members, who had been involved with the previous Reform Association for Ontario and the original Reform Ontario movement since 1989, were approached to join the new expansion towards a broader base beyond the single-issue special interest groups and into the differing demographics of today's Ontario. Those actively involved with the merger with the FCP include RPO president Joshua E. Eriksen, deputy leader and agriculture critic Bill Cook, along with principles and policy development ideas and input from several grassroots members from the old Reform Ontario movement, to prepare a New Reform Ontario people first platform for Ontarians in time for the 2018 provincial election.

Election results[edit]

Election Candidates nominated Candidates elected Total votes % of popular vote
2007 2 - 354 0.01%
2011 4 - 647 0.01%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Registered Political Parties". Elections Canada. 27 February 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "Of Passionate Intensity Right-wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada", Trevor Harrison, April 11, 1995.
  3. ^ "Storming Babylon Preston Manning and the Rise of the Reform Party", Sydney Sharpe Don Braid, January 1, 1992.
  4. ^ "Preston Manning and the Reform Party", Murray Dobbin, January 1, 1991.
  5. ^ "Unite the Right in Ontario", Progressive Group for Independent Business, May 31, 2003.
  6. ^ "Representative Party of Ontario", Archived, January 20, 2007.
  7. ^ "Reserved Political Party Names in Ontario", Elections Ontario, April 20, 2015.
  8. ^ "Know Your Fringe Parties I -- The Few, the Brave, the Deregistered", The Jack of Hearts, September 25, 2008.
  9. ^ "Candidates", CBC Canada, Sept. 24, 2007.
  10. ^ "Ontario Election Results", GP Murray Research Limited, Oct. 20, 2007.
  11. ^ "Fledgling party targets John Tory detractors – Reform Party?", GTA Patriot, June 1, 2008.
  12. ^ "Rural group joins forces with Reform", Ottawa Citizen, March 18, 2008.
  13. ^ "Rumblings from the Valley", Ottawa Citizen, March 14, 2008.
  14. ^ "Reform Party woos landowners group", Renfrew Mercury, March 21, 2008.
  15. ^ "Hillier better off in the PC fold", Brockville Recorder, March 22, 2008.
  16. ^ "McGuinty calls byelection in Tory's riding", CTV News, February 4, 2009.
  17. ^ "Reform to test 'urbanite' Tory in rural riding", Toronto Star, January 15, 2009.
  18. ^ "Ontario Reform Party: Not-So-Giant Killers?", The Nexus, January 15, 2009.
  19. ^ "Watson to enter civic race Monday", CBC News Ottawa, January 31, 2010.
  20. ^ "New party looking for members who support right-wing views", Belleville Community Press, February 19, 2008.
  21. ^ "Reform party leader believes in small government", Strathroy Age Dispatch, September 29, 2011.
  22. ^ "Fiscal responsibility tops agenda for Ontario Reform Party", Sudbury Northern Life, June 29, 2010.
  23. ^ "Election-ready", Hamilton Spectator, July 23, 2011.
  24. ^ "Voter's Tool Kit", CBC Canada, June 12, 2014.
  25. ^ "Family Coalition Party is Now The New Reform Party of Ontario", Catholic Canada, March 2, 2015.

External links[edit]