Job 1 for next Tory leader: re­u­nit­ing party af­ter marathon lead­er­ship race

Cape Breton Post - - Canada - BY STEPHANIE LEVITZ

The 13 can­di­dates vy­ing to lead the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives made their fi­nal pitches to party faithful on Fri­day – and now the marathon lead­er­ship race is all over but the cry­ing for 12 of them.

In­deed, it was likely over even be­fore the lead­er­ship hope­fuls made their swan-song speeches Fri­day night.

The vast ma­jor­ity of party mem­bers will al­ready have voted by mail-in bal­lots, al­though they can still cast bal­lots in per­son Satur­day at the Toronto con­ven­tion site and at polling sta­tions across the coun­try. Polls close at 5 p.m. At­lantic.

For the win­ner, how­ever, the hard part is still to come: unit­ing the party and get­ting it in fight­ing form in time for the next elec­tion in 2019.

“This has been a long lead­er­ship race but the hard­est work is still ahead,” said for­mer Con­ser­va­tive cabi­net min­is­ter James Moore.

A num­ber of can­di­dates have cham­pi­oned poli­cies dur­ing the cam­paign that run con­trary to long-stand­ing party pol­icy and, should one of them win, it might be dif­fi­cult - or at least time con­sum­ing - to per­suade party mem­bers to change di­rec­tion.

For in­stance, front-run­ner Maxime Bernier has un­abashedly cam­paigned on a pledge to undo sup­port for sup­ply man­age­ment, the pol­icy that con­trols the pro­duc­tion and price of dairy prod­ucts in Canada. Should he win, he’s said he’ll spend the next year con­vinc­ing party mem­bers to change their minds on the is­sue.

An­other im­me­di­ate chal­lenge will be en­sur­ing that all the failed lead­er­ship hope­fuls put the race be­hind them

and rally be­hind the even­tual win­ner.

Some cam­paigns are al­ready grum­bling about the po­ten­tial for a high num­ber of spoiled bal­lots to skew the re­sults. And there’s still the out­stand­ing ques­tion of who, ex­actly, was be­hind the 2,729 in­el­i­gi­ble mem­ber­ships found on the party’s rolls.

Party of­fi­cials did meet with Elec­tions Canada and turned over all the ma­te­rial from their in­ter­nal membership re­view but the of­fice of the elec­tions com­mis­sioner won’t say whether it is for­mally in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mat­ter.

The mere sug­ges­tion of a prob­lem makes party brass anx­ious since one of the pri­mary ob­jec­tives of the lead­er­ship con­test has been to present a re­freshed party to Cana­di­ans, one free from the bag­gage of its years in gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing re­peated runins with Elec­tions Canada over po­lit­i­cal fi­nanc­ing and other scan­dals.

A door on one of those scan­dals fi­nally closed Thurs­day, with the fed­eral ethics com­mis­sioner’s rul­ing that for­mer prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper’s one-time chief of staff broke the Con­flict of In­ter­est Act when he per­son­ally gave $90,000 to Sen. Mike Duffy to re­im­burse du­bi­ous liv­ing ex­penses claims.

Harper won’t be at­tend­ing the week­end lead­er­ship event, de­ter­mined to leave the spot­light to whomever in­her­its the party he helped found.

Harper is cred­ited with quickly unit­ing di­ver­gent fac­tions in the af­ter­math of his lead­er­ship win in 2004. His suc­ces­sor will have the same job, said Moore.

“The leader has to bring in those can­di­dates who weren’t suc­cess­ful and make sure non­sup­port­ive MPs are re­as­sured of the new di­rec­tion.”

The pref­er­en­tial bal­lot be­ing used to se­lect the next leader could help ease some ten­sion since ev­ery voter can rank their choices from first to 10th. That forces them to give some ad­vance thought about whom, other than their favourite, would make an ac­cept­able leader.

Un­der a pref­er­en­tial bal­lot­ing sys­tem, if no can­di­date re­ceives more than 50 per cent of the vote, the last-place con­tender is elim­i­nated and his or her sup­port­ers’ sec­ond choices are counted. That con­tin­ues un­til one emerges with a ma­jor­ity.

None of the 13 is ex­pected to win on the first bal­lot, which means there’ll be sev­eral rounds of count­ing be­fore the win­ner is fi­nally an­nounced Satur­day night.

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