This past weekend I attended the Conservative Party Leadership Convention that selected former House Speaker and Opposition House Leader Andrew Scheer as the new leader of the Party, as a non-delegated convention and the second under the one member one vote process the expectations of an exciting outcome were low.
Following the Friday and Saturday evenings of the convention there were seveal factors the made this convention as exciting as any other in the combined PC/Reform/Alliance and Conservative history. here are a few reasons why.
There’s a saying, “everyone is an expert”, Saturday night there were 5000 of them. Everyone in the room had a theory and an outcome after each ballot result was announced. Guessing started as soon as 1st ballot results were revealed. The unspoken question everyone wanted to ask was “is this enough of a start for Bernier to win it all?” As successive candidates were dropped off the ballot we discussed where the votes would go and who would benefit from the dropped candidate’s loss. We all acted like the TV hosts lined up along the back of the room covering the event live. It wasn’t until Pierre Lemieux was last on the ballot that the prognostations started to go wild. It was good to see that Conservatives were looking at the possibilities and imagining outcomes and how those outcomes would help or hinder the Party.
When the results of the first round were announced, the reaction from the party members was not what I expected – laughter. In the first ballot rolecall, Kevin O’Leary was in 11th position with just over 1% of the vote. Previously I wrote about the decsion O’Leary made to drop out and how his timng was all off, rendering his name being left on the ballot. O’Leary dropped out and endorsed Maxime Bernier, this was supposed to give Bernier the lead he could have to carry him through to win it all. Something happened on the way to the dance though, O’Leary’s followers didn’t go with him and some didn’t show up. It is unsure just where they ended up. Together Bernier and O’Leary are estmated to have 50,000+ memberships and with all of them voting Maxime would have had a lead that would have been insurmountable. He didn’t ,so was O’Leary a factor afterall in the race?
Trost and Lemieux
If there was anything that caused shockwaves greater than Kevin O’Leary finishing 11th, it was not only Brad Trost finishing fourth, but that Trost and and Pierre Lemieux BOTH finished in the top 6. Between them they had 15% share of the vote across Canada. Their 15% represented a huge voting block that was not anticpated by many. The media did not see this coming.
Between Trost and Lemieux, they demostrate the strength of family values and the SoCon segment of the Conservative Party. It is difficult to know how this will play out in the coming weeks and months leading up the 2019 election. But on Saturday evening, Trost and Lemieux from the right and Erin O’Toole from the centre delivered the keys to Stornaway to Andrew Scheer.
Max and Second Choice Support
There was a threshold that had to be met. The only gasp that was louder that then one where Andrew Scheer was announced as leader was the one heard when the first ballot was announced. The gasp was the result of Maxime Bernier not breaching the 30% threshold of the points available on the first ballot. The consensus was that Bernier needed a strong opening ballot result to see a clear path to 50% with as little second ballot support as possible.
While Andrew Scheer and even as a remote as it seems, Erin O’Toole had a path to the leadership, Bernier however had a narrow path and as the subsequent ballots were announced, Andrew Scheer had faster second, third and fourth ballot support than Maxime Bernier. As the evening progressed through to the 13th and final ballot, even Erin O’Toole could not give Bernier what he needed, the majority of his next level support with the additional 9.63% to get to 50.01. His path was shorter than Scheer’s, but was full of weeds, rocks and fallen trees and was steep. Bernier didn’t make it.
Scheer and the coalition that made him the Leader
Through each round of balloting Scheer slowly gained the the support he needed to eventually overtake Maxime Bernier. Who were the Conservatives that elected Andrew Scheer as Leader of the party? Who was the Kingmaker? Scheer only made significant movement by the time the results for the for the 9th round of balloting was announced and Pierre Lemieux was dropped from the ballot. Scheer gained 2.18% while Bernier only moved 0.45%.
As candidates with support of 7% and higher dropped off, more of their supporters went to Scheer than Bernier, and it was only a matter of time before Scheer became number one, but only if there was enough time. Looking at who was on the ballot, people were doing the math and considered just where support would go, Bernier’s team must have been holding their breath and counting votes through each successive round. In the end it was the right, the environmentalists and the centre of the party that gave Andrew Scheer the final push and the leadership.
The Missing 130,000
There were 259,000 memberships when sales closed at the end of the leadership campaign, only 125,000 ballots were counted in the final results. Where did the 130,000 other ballots go? There have been comments online that as many as 20% of the ballots were spoiled. That still meant a large number of ballots never made it to the count. Were some of the ballots in the hands O’Leary supporters that did not have a home after O’Leary jumped ship? Likely, but what about the remaining 85,000 ballots? Where are they? We’ll never know.
At the end of the evening, the tortoise won the race, out pacing the hare. It was a slow but exciting unpredictable (for a while) release of ballot results – but no one left the room. No one wanted to dare miss the next round results. When the 13th and last round of results were announced, Andrew Scheer had won with a mix of support that would have made Stephen Harper proud. After the roar of victory, band kicked into a version of “We are the Champions” that the best of lounge singers would be proud to be a part of.
It was a good night to be a Conservative.
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