As Jim Dinning learned six years ago, having the support of MLAs in a leadership contest does not assure victory. The long-time front-runner in the 2006 Progressive Conservative leadership contest counted the support of over forty sitting MLAs, but on the final ballot vote, it was a low-key cabinet minister named Ed Stelmach with the initial support of nine MLAs who upset Mr. Dinning’s sure-win.
The current PC leadership contest has shown a larger diversity in choices among PC MLAs, with Gary Mar drawing the support of seventeen MLAs, Doug Horner twelve MLAs, Ted Morton nine MLAs, and one each for both Alison Redford and Doug Griffiths.
Premier Christy Clark‘s recent victory in the BC Liberal leadership contest proved that even a candidate with the support of only one-MLA can become the leader of a governing party. A downside of this scenario, as Premier Clark is said to be discovering, and as Premier Stelmach discovered, is that you still have to work with those MLAs who did not support your bid.
Support from sitting-MLAs does have its advantages if the MLA has a strong local organization and especially in rural areas, where local representatives have a different kind of relationship with municipal councils, community organizations, and local weekly newspapers than their counterparts representing big city constituencies.
The maps above compare the total number of votes in the final weekend of the 2006 PC leadership contest with the support of MLAs in 2011. The number of voting members in each constituency will change in this year’s contest, due to different candidates and a different political environment, but it is an interesting look at where the largest groupings of PC memberships were sold in that year’s contest.