The Conservative Party leadership is not starting out on a very positive note. Interest in being a candidate for the top political job in the province is lacking.
The one thing party brass is doing to drum up some interest is to have an old fashioned knock-down drag-‘em-out fight on the convention floor.
Unlike the NDP and the Liberals, the Tories are not going for a “one member, one vote” campaign. This was what the Liberals did provincially last time around to elect Dwight Ball. Instead of crowding in locally elected delegates at some hotel to make the decision, the party utilized technology to expand their reach and expand their support base.
There is no denying the idea was a smart one. As a result of this move, the Liberals can now boast a list of over 30,000 new people who signed on as members and supporters of the party. While this type of modern day campaign is seen as more inclusive and of a broader appeal, the Tories abandoned the idea in favour of going old school.
As a political junkie, I love it. There is nothing quite like an old-fashioned leadership race where candidates are figuratively locked in with all of the voting delegates for two or three days. The entire thing adds drama and intensity.
Despite the obvious positives of using new methods to pick a leader, the delegated convention helps write a narrative that engages people like no other.
For example, there is no other format for deciding a leadership where speeches are quite as important as at a delegated convention. God only knows how many votes can be won, or minds changed, with the right speech.
The right speech can catapult someone from behind to the front of the race and the delegates inside the building are only a small portion of the audience candidates are talking to.
It all makes for some “must see TV” and I guess that’s what the party brass is shooting for.
Again, those speeches take on an air of importance that’s lacking when people can vote from home any time they choose over a 12-hour period.
The delegated leadership contest also brings in some horse trading. People love the horse trading. Candidates that are dropped from a ballot have to make a decision.
Do they “go to someone” and support them against other potential winners or do they stand aside and “release” their delegates to go where they want? This kind of stuff can keep you on the edge of your seat.
The hours of speculation as votes are counted and fortunes change can keep the home audience tuned in from beginning to end.
It’s not hockey, but it’s up there.
The big problem the Tories face, though, is this lack of interest. Without a couple of political titans in the field to do battle, the entire thing withers on the vine. What happens if there are only two or three candidates for the job? The entire process could be over in a couple of hours.
God forbid there are only two candidates in the race. A single vote, where the winner takes all will lack all of that required drama. The bump a new leader is supposed to get from this kind of “show” could well be lost if there is no run-off.
If interest in the top job and the challenge of turning the tide for the Tory government is not going to appeal to the supposed front-runners, then the delegated convention may turn out to be like Bill 29 … just another bad idea.
Running for any political job is a gamble. This time the Tory executive is also gambling. Delegated conventions cost huge gobs of money and it can handicap otherwise interested candidates from showing up. Bringing delegates together for two or three days is expensive. The party, the delegates and the candidates all end up paying that bill. A hotly contested race may justify it. A lukewarm one will not.
Then again, it just may be that the old school selection process really has to go the way of the great auk. Sad for the Tories if they are late in learning that lesson.
Randy Simms is a political commentator and broadcaster. He can be reached at: email@example.com.