Coming off a provincial election in which it garnered a significantly higher number of votes than in the previous one, the Family Coalition Party of Ontario (Ontario Coalition) is setting its sights on some ambitious goals as it prepares for the next balloting exercise several years hence.

The party won over 35,000 votes on Oct. 2, representing an impressive 48 per cent increase over the previous election, although this was achieved with 35 per cent more candidates than in 1999. The results were evenly spread throughout the province and almost every one of the FCP’s 51 candidates did better.

At a summit meeting of party executives and supporters in Mississauga on Nov. 1, leader Giuseppe Gori said the results bode well for the party and give it direction for its work ahead. He outlined a multi-faceted plan to increase the party’s profile over the next few years, as well as an agenda to get a candidate or two elected to the provincial legislature.

He noted that although the FCP attracted more votes this time around, it still fell short of its highest total in the 1990 election. Gori attributed the shortfall to factors including a shortage of riding associations, finances, staff and volunteers, too many last-minute candidacies and poor media coverage.

On the other hand, many positives emerged from the recent campaign. He said the FCP is now seen as less “strident” and as more than a “one-issue” (pro-life) party, it has achieved a level of experience and maturity in the political sphere, it has clear, comprehensive policies on a range of issues and it has attracted support from many new people.

“We now know we can do much better, and how to do it,” he told the assembly. He suggested that although it gets polling booth support from only a small percentage of them, the FCP represents the views of at least 20 per cent of Ontarians. The challenge, he said, is to persuade more people who are sympathetic to the party to actually vote for it and realize it is not a “wasted” vote.

“We want to become a household name in politics” he said, observing that many Ontarians are still unaware of the fact that the party even exists. “We want to clarify and improve our image.”

One way to do that, he said, is for the party to position itself as a main media contact on social and moral issues. “We need to be called on for all-candidates debates. We’re at the mercy of a few reporters. We’re ignored on purpose. We are discriminated against.”

Gori said ways to get around media blackouts include increasing the party’s presence on the internet and buying more advertising. The latter route, however, can prove to be an expensive – and sometimes ineffective – option, because of the high expenses associated with airing and publishing constant and repetitious messages, he said.

The message to be gotten out is that the FCP is a compassionate party concerned with the well-being of all citizens and that it represents common Ontarians.

Gori said other key components are for the FCP to connect and network with other, like-minded organizations, increase its membership and professional staff and establish a centralized office as a base of operations. He set a first-year goal of 500 new financial supporters for the party.

Gori said all of these efforts should result in the party doubling its slate of candidates – thus having one in practically every riding – and tripling its voter support.

At the summit meeting, Gori assembled a “shadow cabinet,” each of whose members will monitor one of the cabinet portfolios of new Premier Dalton McGuinty and offer critiques and comments as necessary.

“The FCP has come of age,” he declared. “We’re going to make a difference next time.”