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Politics Hudak should face Tory leadership review, MPP Frank Klees says

Ontario MPP Frank Klees feels the Progressive Conservative grassroots should be given a chance to air their dissent against Leader Tim Hudak after disappointing results in a string of provincial by-elections.

MICHELLE SIU/The Globe and Mail

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak should agree to face a leadership review at a party convention next month instead of trying to block dissenters, a senior member of the Tory caucus said Wednesday.

Some Conservatives angry that the party lost four of five by-elections last week have filed motions to seek a review of Hudak's leadership at their upcoming policy convention in London.

Hudak and his supporters shouldn't be trying to block the motions, said Tory MPP Frank Klees, who finished second in the 2009 leadership race.

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"The worst thing you can do is to suppress the opinion of the grassroots," added Klees.

"Let them express themselves, and I really think the best way to deal with this is to get ahead of the issue, preempt any disgruntlement that may well build up."

The Tories do not have a provision for a leadership review at the London convention, but Klees said it would be wise for Hudak to ask for one anyway to help solidify his control of the party.

"For Tim to put that vote out there voluntarily, without being seen to resist that, I think it shows confidence on the part of the leader, and I think that in itself would instill confidence on the part of the members in the leader," he said. "If you're afraid of what the members are going to say, what does that say about a general election and the general public?"

However, deputy PC Leader Christine Elliott, who finished third in the 2009 leadership race, said Hudak is already spearheading an effort to see what went wrong in the by-elections.

"We have already had a conversation about doing a deep analysis about where things didn't turn out the way that we had hoped that they would," said Elliott. "I know that Tim is asking questions, so I think he's doing exactly the right thing now."

People need to remember that none of the five ridings had been Conservative, and the party made a much-needed breakthrough in the city of Toronto by taking the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding, added Elliott.

"As for people bringing challenges forward, it happens all the time, there's always going to be some people that aren't going to be happy," she said. "But I think that we all need to just calm down a little bit."

PC party president Richard Ciano echoed Elliott's comments, and said disgruntled Tories "should take a deep breath" and realize there's no need for a leadership review at the upcoming convention.

Hudak, who is vacationing this week and unavailable to comment, won over 75 per cent support when the party held it's last leadership review following the loss to the Liberals in the 2011 general election.

Klees is the first member of the Conservative caucus to openly say Hudak should face a leadership review next month.

"If in fact what we're hearing is true, and that is that the majority of the membership are in fact supportive, then he will survive it," said Klees.

"Let's have a confidence vote, and if that takes place I'm convinced that it will be in the best interest of the party, rather than allowing this thing to fester and build up pressure unnecessarily."

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