OTTAWA—Some Conservatives are calling for a review of the party’s leadership selection process after Andrew Scheer wound up winning with the support of less than 50 percent of voting party members.
The Tories used a preferential system to choose a new leader from among the 14 contenders on the ballot. Voters could rank their choices from first to tenth, although they were not required to rank more than one or two if they so desired.
On each ballot, as the least popular candidate was eliminated, his or her supporters’ second and subsequent choices were counted; that process of redistributing votes continued until Scheer edged past Maxime Bernier on the 13th and final ballot.
According to figures released by the party, just over 141,000 Conservatives cast ballots during the leadership vote. But by the 13th round, just over 118,000 ballots were still in play, with Scheer taking 62,593 of those votes to Bernier’s 55,544.
That means 23,000 voters hadn’t ranked either Scheer or Bernier among their top 10 choices and their ballots were thus discarded by the time the field was winnowed down to the two finalists.
Hence, Scheer won with 44 percent of the 141,000 party members who took part in the leadership vote.
Calgary Conservative MP Ron Liepert said the problem wasn’t with the ranked ballot system so much as it was with the unwieldy number of candidates.
“It was just too many candidates and people couldn’t really familiarize themselves [with them all] and so they just sort of said, ‘Well, I don’t want to vote for somebody as a second, third, or fourth choice that I really don’t know,”’ Liepert said.
“I think that was the biggest problem.”
Liepert speculated that voters would have been more inclined to rank their choices if there had been fewer candidates to get to know and choose among.
For future races, he said the party needs to look at introducing some sort of primary-type step to winnow a large field down to a more manageable number.
“Frankly, it just doesn’t work with that many candidates.”
Ontario Conservative MP Peter Van Loan said it’s impossible for party members to personally meet more than one or two candidates and, thus, it’s inevitable that some will rank only those contenders they feel they know well.
“It’s one of the challenges of doing one-member, one-vote,” he said.
Van Loan said he prefers the old-fashioned leadership conventions, where party members elect several thousand delegates to send to a convention. Under that process, candidates can actually personally contact every voter and delegates get a chance “to look at these candidates up front, face to face.”
“I’ve always been a believer that delegated conventions are a superior process,” he said.
Although both said the leadership selection process should be reviewed, Liepert and Van Loan shrugged off any suggestion that Scheer’s victory lacks legitimacy due to the number of discarded ballots.
“He had a majority of the votes that were cast on the final ballot, he had a majority of the weighted vote,” Van Loan said.
“I think that there’s no argument for a false majority or a lack of a full mandate here. I think he’s got a full, strong mandate.”
On May 29, meanwhile, Scheer began his tenure as Opposition leader surrounded by cheering caucus members who gathered to hear their new boss rally his troops—a speech in which he wasted no time depicting the governing party as out-of-touch elites.
“We’re the party of everyday Canadians who work hard, who make sacrifices to secure a better future for their kids. That’s who we are, that’s who we fight for—that’s never going to change,” he said.
“The Liberals can take their cues from the cocktail circuit. We will take ours from the minivans, from the soccer fields, from the legion halls, and the grocery stores.”
From The Canadian Press