Tories taking big gamble with old-school convention

Randy Simms
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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:  rsimms@nf.sympatico.ca.

Twitter: @RandyRsimms

Organizations: NDP

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  • Susan
    March 03, 2014 - 11:25

    @ Ivy, Girl we all know your painted red, Wouldn't matter to you, if they walk up and slap a baby across the lips, you still would praise them . As for the leader we have, He no leader why don't you just admit it. Ivy , that like the in fighting going on with the party, Sooner or later, Its all going to come out. Then what will you be saying? I guess you'll using the old party line, It was the other fellow false...Girl, you got to take a stand for yourself, at your age , you do know right from wrong, never mine the colour of the party, but what they stand for.

  • Scott
    March 03, 2014 - 10:53

    @ Ivy, I also voted in the leadership race, wasn't long after the campaign was over. I had a e-mail looking for a donation on a monthly base's , To help Dwight to form the next government. And I still have that e-mail. LOL..I'm not the only one, So lady please remove your head from the sand box. Do your white washing on some one else, Not me...Thank you kindly

    • Ivy
      March 04, 2014 - 17:24

      Scott I white washed on nobody. I said that I have never been approached for money by the Liberal party....and I did vote in the leadership race. Susan, despite your obvious disdain for an opinion opposing yours, I am not swayed by anyone, especially one slapping a baby. The problem with you people who pretend to be for the person, you wouldn't be able to tell me something about the person you voted for. I know that I will only support someone who will make this a better province for everyone, not because he is Liberal but because he is my choice for leader no matter what color. It's because of my age that I am not fooled by silver tongued politicians nor people who can't take an opinion opposite theirs.

  • Jay
    March 03, 2014 - 08:03

    Randy, I disagree with you analysis. The Liberal process just ensured that their internal candidate won the leadership. The local MHAs and power brokers controlled the vote and Ball won. Nobody heard his platform, and nobody knows where he stands on important issues such as MuskratFalls. The membership list doesn't translate into votes, it was just a mad scramble to get names on a list. What, exactly, was so good about that process?

  • Crazy
    March 01, 2014 - 12:30

    Randy just finishes reading your article. Sorry sir don't agree with you. Just because the liberal use this ( Technology )its open to (ERA ), anyone with the skill concerning computer , can get them to doing just about anything, Its like Telegram, when they asked a question of the day to the public.. That computer will let a person vote only once, depending on the program... If your program is set up to pass over certain name. and pass on all the joy to some one else it can be done. According to some computer experts I was talking to. ( Just Saying ). As for the database you said the liberal has, Ask how many of them were ask to make a monthly donation, To help Dwight to form the next government, The only reason the liberal did what they did, was hoping to have the people to pay of their loan...As for the way the PC's are doing its. That the way to go. Now lets take a look at the liberal party. Dwight Ball is no leader, because if he was, he didn't need to stack our party with floor crosser or back stabbers. Things is he hoping to come to power by hanging on their coat tails, Tom - Chris - Dale - Paul is hoping to get elects on his coat tails. Then you got Sammy Clause who is gone into hiding so deep, its going to take six years to dig him out. to qualify for his pension.

    • Ivy
      March 02, 2014 - 16:29

      I voted in the Liberal Leadership Convention, never was the subject of money raised to me. I suppose there is nothing 100% foolproof but the Liberal way was much more inclusive. You didn't need to be a part of large corporation to vote for the Liberal party and everyone was on a level playing field. That is something that all governments should strive towards.