Tories set leadership convention for early summer

James McLeod
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Selection will prove crucial to PCs’ fortunes, MUN professor says

The Tories will meet in St. John’s in late June — or maybe early July — to pick the next premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Most of the details still need to be hammered out, but the party announced Monday it has appointed a set of co-chairs to organize the convention, and has set a tentative date of June 27-29 for all the hoopla to go down.

The date could change a bit, as the party is still trying to nail down a convention venue somewhere in town.

Officials are still working out the nitty gritty rules of the leadership race, including the key deadlines for nominations, debates and spending.

No one from the party was available to do an interview Monday.

Memorial University political scientist Kelly Blidook said the leadership process will be crucial for the party’s fortunes — just how, exactly, won’t be known until after it’s all over.

“I can’t tell them what the outcome needs to be for it to work. I don’t think anybody can tell them that,” Blidook said. “But we’ll all look back at it one day and say, ‘Wow, they sure made the right decision,’ or, ‘They sure made the wrong decision.’”

According to an Abacus poll commissioned by VOCM News, the Liberals are currently riding high with 49 per cent of public support; the Tories are a long way back, with 34 per cent, and the NDP has 15 per cent.

Blidook said the Tories are definitely in a tough spot, but he doesn’t put too much stock in the idea that the Progressive Conservative government has hit its expiry date, and a change is inevitable.

“Every election is its own election,” he said. “So long as there’s a competitive system, then what you should see should be, you know, governments that very rarely govern more than two times in a row, and occasionally three times.”

He likened it to a coin toss — as long as the system is competitive, each party has roughly equal odds of winning in each election. The same party winning again and again in a competitive system isn’t impossible, it’s just a much lower probability.

When it comes to who, exactly, the party will pick as leader, Blidook said there are pros and cons to picking somebody in the caucus, or going with an outsider.

Somebody who hasn’t been sitting in caucus for the past few years can escape from being tarnished by Bill 29, and some of the other unpopular decisions that the Tories have made.

But there’s definitely something to be said for experience, too.

“Not being an insider is an important thing, but I do think sometimes we overvalue that,” Blidook said. “You don’t want all fresh faces. Think about where you work right now; do you want all fresh faces as your bosses? Probably not. You probably want some people with experience and a bit of knowledge.”

When it comes to the leadership process, the PC party will go with a classic delegated convention, as opposed to the open one-member, one-vote system the Liberals used last fall.

Blidook said both processes have merits, but in a lot of ways, it will be less about the race and more about what comes next that really matters.

“Yes, the leadership convention probably plays some role, but I think it’s probably a relatively minor role,” he said. “I think that the real impact is in the days that follow it.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Monday.Memorial University, VOCM News, NDP

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