Conservatives count out leadership rule changes for 2017 contest
Published Thursday, May 26, 2016 12:44PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 26, 2016 7:56PM EDT
OTTAWA -- The Conservative Party is grappling with some messy debates over how it selects its leader, but any changes decided this weekend won't apply to the race to replace Stephen Harper.
Both the national council and the group governing the leadership race have passed unanimous resolutions that make it clear this weekend's policy convention won't change the rules for the current contest, which runs until next May. Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton has also advised the party it would be procedurally unfair to change the rules once the race was underway, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
The party faces resolutions this weekend that, if adopted, would allow the interim leader to run for leadership, and would change how leadership votes are distributed among members.
Currently, each local riding association gets 100 votes, which are then distributed based on the per cent of votes cast for each candidate. There's an attempt at every policy convention to change that to a one-member, one-vote system, but the party has so far failed to adopt the change.
Interim leader Rona Ambrose has repeatedly said she isn't interested in running for the full-time leadership. That hasn't stopped MPs and delegates from pushing for her to run, leading to an attempt at the convention to change the rules to allow her to run.
Ambrose told CTV’s Glen McGregor on Thursday that she appreciates the support of those who are encouraging her to run, but she’s not changing her mind.
“I love my job but I'm here for an interim period and I'm here to support the people that want to lead our party,” she said.
Ambrose said it’s up to the party to decide whether it wants to pursue a change in leadership rules, “but it won’t make a difference in my decision.”
The party's leadership also anticipated another attempt to move to a one-member, one-vote system. Such a system would benefit a leadership candidate with support in ridings with larger memberships, such as in the Conservative home base of Alberta. It's thought such a move would improve the chances of a western-based candidate against a strong contender from an area with fewer Conservative voters, such as former defence minister and Nova Scotia MP Peter MacKay.
Ian Brodie, Harper's former chief of staff, will chair the party's constitutional policy workshop Friday morning, and is expected to remind delegates that any changes won't apply to the current contest, the source said. The resolutions are in order and can be debated, but the changes would only come into effect for future leadership races.
The resolutions were passed by the national council last December and by the leadership committee, known as LEOC, in January.
MPs Maxime Bernier, Michael Chong and Kellie Leitch have already announced they are running to lead the Conservative Party. Calgary MP Jason Kenney, who is also a former immigration minister and former defence minister, is thought to be a possible contender along with MacKay, former Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, former industry minister Tony Clement and former House Speaker Andrew Scheer. Kenney, Raitt, Clement and Scheer remain Conservative MPs, while MacKay retired from the House prior to the 2015 election.
Kevin O’Leary, the chair of O'Leary Financial Group and a Bell Media on-air contributor, has also said he may be interested in the party’s top role.