On a high from Thursday’s strong showing in two local byelections, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario entered its annual general meeting this weekend in Ottawa with a spring in its step that’s been missing for a number of years.

“People were excited. For the first time in a long time they felt that it was their convention,” said Nepean Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod. “It certainly didn’t hurt that we did so well in the byelections here in eastern Ontario.”

On Thursday night, political newcomer Beth Graham came within 1,300 votes of upsetting former mayor Bob Chiarelli in Ottawa West-Nepean. The party also held onto the Leeds-Grenville riding, winning 66 per cent of the vote.

If the Conservatives take power in 2011, MacLeod said the victory could be traced back to the work done over the weekend.

“The energy here, the enthusiasm among PC delegates is among the best that I’ve seen. This is a party that is getting ready to fight and win the campaign in 2011,” said PC party Leader Tim Hudak. “There is a lot of buzz in the halls about momentum on the PC side.”

Yesterday, the main question for Hudak remained how he would deal with the harmonized sales tax if he became premier next year.

Hudak said they would continue to fight the tax, but could not repeal it because the province would then have to repay the federal government $4.3 billion. There could be a rate cut in July 2012, but Hudak would not commit to a reduction before consulting with party members around the province.

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