Voices & Choices

Canadian Conservative Party Used Ranked-Choice Ballots to Determine Next Leader

Canadian Conservative Party Used Ranked-Choice Ballots to Determine Next Leader

On May 27, 2017, Andrew Scheer, the Member of Parliament for Regina-qu’Appelle was elected as leader for the Canadian Conservative Party at the end of a thirteen month-long leadership race. The format of the leadership contest, ranked choice voting (RCV), allowed a consensus candidate to emerge out of many controversial candidacies in order to represent a broad base of Conservatives. Scheer’s predecessor, Prime Minister Stephen Harper resigned following the Conservative Party loss in the 2015 federal elections. Following his resignation, the party appointed Rona Ambrose, a caucus member and former Minister of Health, Environment and Public Works, as interim leader until the permanent leader was appointed by the party’s members in a leadership contest.

Thirteen candidates ran to lead the Conservative Party of Canada with varying perspectives and ideas. While some were staunch proponents of controversial ideas, such as Kellie Leitch, who proposed a Canadian values’ test for immigrants, other candidates advocated for innovative, yet unpopular ideas within the party. Such was the case of Michael Chong, who was the sole proponent of a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which attracted him a lot of criticism through the leadership campaign. On the other hand, others positioned themselves as moderates, who could appeal to a variety of interest groups by remaining neutral on a number of issues that remain controversial within the party. These individuals, Andrew Scheer, Erin O’Toole and Lisa Raitt, among others, could hope to gather many second, third and fourth choices, due to their moderate natures and policies.

Voters made their voices heard through RCV and were able to rank their mail-in ballots in order of preference. With RCV, a Conservative party member could vote for as few as one candidate, or as many as 10 candidates. Each riding (electoral district) was allocated 100 points, and these points were distributed to various leadership candidates according to the votes received. This system ensured that smaller ridings with smaller memberships would have an equal representation in the party’s choice for leadership.

Many political pundits accurately predicted that it would take the maximum number of rounds (13) to reach the 50%+1 threshold (a majority of votes). Due to the number of candidates, predictions of the rankings were limited; however Maxime Bernier was often named as a frontrunner. In each round, the candidate with the lowest amount was eliminated and those voters' second choices were then counted, insuring that these voters’ interests continued to be represented throughout the voting process. This process was continued until the threshold was reached.

During the last round, Andrew Scheer faced off with Maxime Bernier, who wished to bring sweeping changes to the party’s policies, such as a firm rejection of supply management, and a policy to control the price of eggs, poultry, and other products. On the other hand, Andrew Scheer proposed continuity in order to promote consensus within the caucus and the party. His capacity to not only present moderate policies that could attract a broad base of conservative voters, but also his ease to go beyond his usual base and attract many second, third and fourth choice votes were crucial factors in his ability to secure victory.


Photo credit: Vice News

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