Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cons keep leadership system Finley says wide-open to abuse

In an convention that was seriously lacking in news (which is the way the Conservatives wanted it, incidentally) the one bit of drama was the battle (which seems to happen at each of their conventions) to re-write the rules for selecting Stephen Harper's successor.

When the Alliance and PCs merged, PC leader Peter MacKay insisted on an equal-riding system instead of the Alliance's pure one member, one vote where ridings with large membership bases (primarily in Alberta) would overwhelm smaller ridings in the rest of the country, giving candidates no incentive to campaign nationally. At his insistence they adopted a system of riding equality, where each riding gets 100 points regardless of membership, and so candidates need to gain support accross the country.

Some of the old Alliance folks have been trying to change the system for years, arguing it's unfair to large membership ridings (a vote in a small riding is worth more than one in a large riding), and it discourages all ridings from recruiting since they're capped at 100 points no matter how many members they have.

At this convention Ontario MP Scott Reid, generally seen as a proxy for future leadership candidate Jason Kenney (who would draw support from populous Ontario and Alberta ridings) put forward an amendment for what he called a compromise position: 100 point minimum, but if you sign up more that 100 members you could increase your points, to a maximum of 400 points. So there would be some incentive to sign up new members, but smaller ridings wouldn't be completely overwhelmed. Senator Don Plett lays out their argument here to delegates at a pre-vote hospitality suite:

On the other side is MacKay and a lot of old Tories, who see such a change abandoning one of the core principles on which the party was founded, and as a move that would stop the Conservatives from being the truly national party they seek to be.

The debate played out quite dramatically on the constitutional plenary floor, following some procedural wrangling. Usually amendments make it to the floor via workshops but the Reid motion was soundly defeated in workshop Friday. He managed to get it to the floor by a petition drive, which the MacKay side tried unsuccessfully to get ruled out of order.

Once debate proceeded, with Reid kicking off the for and MacKay the against, many of the speakers were high profile caucus and cabinet members. Michael Chong and Peter Kent sided with MacKay, while Doug Finley (who ran Harper's successful leadership campaign under the 100 point system) sided with Reid, describing the current system as wide-open to rampant abuse. And he's not entirely wrong; before she crossed the floor Belinda Stronach ran against Harper (and Tony Clement) in that leadership race, and became competitive by sending paid organizers into defunct Quebec ridings and taking them over for 100 points each.

In the end, delegates rejected the Reid motion so soundly by a show of hands the chairs didn't even bother going to an electronic vote. Interestingly, they also rejected an amendment from the MacKay side to enshrine riding equality in the party's core principles, which they argue would make future motion's like Reid's out of order. An interesting bit of balance.

I think Finley will come to regret those words if he's still around when a race to replace Harper does eventually happen. But in the interim, here's MacKay reacting to the day's events:

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CanadianSense said...

An interesting post. I disagree with your view the Government wanted the 4th election in 7 years before the benefits of the stimulus/good economic news had a chance to be fully realized.
Voters agreed and punished 2 out of the 3 parties on May 2.

I do think the old PC guys have made a mistake by not allowing successful ridings to have more weight. You nailed it with the Belinda example.

Jeff said...

I wrote election when I meant to write convention; my point was the CPC wanted this convention to be drama and news free, which it largely was.

I was surprised that no one from the Reid/Kenney camp brought up Stronach because it is the obvious example, and since she left the tent it's not like they'd be bashing one of their own.

Still, I'd side with MacKay on this one. Whether you go status quo or Reid's option, every system has its pluses and minuses. It's all about balancing them out. For me, an equality of ridngs that forces leadership candidates to campaign in every region of the countries is crucial to building and maintaining a national party.

That's why when the Liberals went through this debate (and our new system is pretty similar to the current CPC model) I campaigned strongly for the riding weighting. I didn't want a party dominated by populous Toronto ridings; BC would be ignored with pure OMOV. And while any system can be abused, I'd love to see campaigns investing time and resources building smaller ridings. It will help them grow, and that's good for the party. It's unfortunate the vote is diluted on the populous ridings, but that's part of building national party.

Gloria said...

The only party I will ever vote for again, is the party who will separate the west from the east.

That's the only fair way for the west. The west doesn't have the population to win concessions. Our tax dollars get funneled to the east, for crumbs in return. We in the west are tired of being dictated to by the east.

The west's tax dollars would stay in the west. The west has vast natural resources. Oil, natural gas, cattle ranches, huge grain farms, orchards, vegetable market gardens, many types of mines. The west would be self sufficient. They now say, the west would be, 40% better off. I believe the Territories wanted to come in, with the west.

Take BC a province, one hell of a long way from Ottawa. This country, isn't working out at all, the way it is. We are sick of Harper too.

Canada is a cesspool of, greed, corruption, dirty tactics, and cheating to win. This is disgusting.

Two year terms, would make corruption easier to control. The BC Liberals, should have been kicked right off the planet, long ago. They have destroyed our beautiful province.

Harper is drooling at the mouth, for our HST to be finalized. I'm sure the BC Liberals, will cheat. If they are afraid they will lose, they cheat. Campbell twice lied to be re-elected for two different elections.

Harper only wanted BC's resources, to give to the giant wealthy corporations, he and Campbell work for. The HST was, also designed for big business, and big business only.

The BC Liberals, should cut their lying crap. We are sick of that too. The HST was a, b.s. tax grab, for utter greed of the wealthy.