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 per cent 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 ten choices and their ballots were thus discarded by the time the field was winnowed down to the two finalists.
Hence, Scheer won with 44 per cent 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 Tuesday.
“So, 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, Liepert 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.”
Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press