The election of the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada may not be in the not too distant future but it has already set in motion the speculation about the choice of the newly recruited 6,00,000 members.
It is going to be an all-time new record as in the previous election of the party chief in 2020, nearly 2,70,000 paid members had voted. Till then it was the biggest ever number of members to participate in the leadership election. This time, the 2020 record will be dwarfed by more than double of the members using their right to elect their new leader.
And if recruiting of new members or reviving old memberships are any indication, Pierre Poilievre looks like running ahead of the remaining five contestants.
Pierre Poilievre claims to have signed up more than 3,10,000 of them. And “Prime Minister” of Brampton as Patrick Brown is popularly addressed by the Punjabi migrant community of Greater Toronto Area (GTA), is next in the list with a claim on 1,50,000 new members. Patrick Brown is Mayor of Brampton.
June 3 was the last date for becoming an active member of the Conservative Party of Canada so as to get a right to vote in the leadership election in September.
The party has claimed that its recruitment drive got an overwhelming response with nearly 6,00,000 applications for paid membership. These applications would now be verified or scrutinised before the posting of ballot papers to party members start by the end of July.
If unverified membership numbers and media reports are any indication, the path to becoming the next leader of the party is becoming precariously narrow for all but front-runner Pierre Poilievre. No political battle is won till the last ballot has been counted.
These preliminary reports emanating based on membership figures may be an indication of a wave, if any, in support of the front runner but cannot be taken for granted. All those who have enrolled themselves as members have time till the start of September to decide and make their choice.
But one thing is certain. With more than double the number of members leadership hopefuls wrangled in the 2020 leadership race, the party is set to smash all the records for the largest membership eligible to vote in a leadership election in Canadian history. The membership alone leaves the party richer by Can $ 90,00,000.
It is all the more credible for a candidate to more than double the party membership as Pierre Poilievre claims to have done. The party strategist Michael Diamond, has been quoted saying that opponents of Pierre Poilievre will have a “very uphill climb.”
Depending upon the accuracy of numbers, the Poilievre camp can claim itself to be sitting in a comfortable position, A former Conservative strategist Tim Powers, however, cautions against drawing inferences from membership numbers. He says it is too early to declare the success of Pierre.
The election process of the party is very clear. It not only takes into consideration the number of votes polled in favour of each contestant but also gives weightage to ridings that vote in favour of each candidate. Each riding is worth 100 points, except in areas that have fewer than 100 members.
Leadership candidates will get points based on the percentage of the vote in each electoral district. They need a majority of points from across the country to win.
“It is possible for others to win because it’s also about voter efficiency,” Powers said.
Other front runner Patrick Brown claims he has signed up 150,000 members and Jean Charest says “tens of thousands” of his supporters have signed up as members. Roman Baber, Leslyn Lewis, and Scott Aitchison have preferred to keep their membership recruitments private.
After recruitment of members, the next phase of campaigning will start after membership lists are released.
Once all the candidates get the lists, they will go after new members for vote and support.
Before the voter lists are released, the party will verify the memberships before giving all candidates a chance to challenge the lists.
According to the election schedule all completed ballots must be received in Ottawa latest by September 6. The final votes will be tallied September 10.
Conservative party president Rob Batherson has lauded all six candidates for record membership saying “Canadians are joining the Conservative Party of Canada in record numbers because they want change from a Justin Trudeau-Jagmeet Singh alliance that is making everything more expensive for everyone – especially workers, families and seniors.”