Alberta Politics

PC Party Superdelegates could block Jason Kenney’s hostile takeover

There are thirty-four days remaining until the Progressive Conservative leadership officially begins on October 1, 2016. The race is already unofficially underway with one candidate in the contest Jason Kenney – the Member of Parliament who launched a hostile takeover campaign earlier in the summer in a bid to merge the PCs with the Wildrose Party with the backing of lobbyists with Wildrose Party ties.

Jason Kenney
Jason Kenney

I keep hearing from my friends involved in the PC Party that a social conservative like Mr. Kenney cannot be allowed to win this race.

The third-place PC Party, which formed government in Alberta from 1971 until 2015, have abandoned its former one-member one-vote system that threw open the doors to any Albertan who wanted to participate. The party’s next leader will be chosen by locally elected delegates – 15 from each of the province’s 87 constituencies.

The PC Party committee drawing up the rules for the leadership race has decided that of each group of 15 elected delegates, ten which will be open to any local party member wishing to become a delegate and five reserved for local party officials. This is somewhat similar to the Superdelegate system used by the Democratic Party in the United States.

Doug Schweitzer
Doug Schweitzer

The adoption of this Superdelegate system means the thousands of Wildrose Party supporters who may purchase PC Party memberships to support Mr. Kenney may have a smaller impact than if all 15 delegate spots were wide open. It will likely make it more difficult for Mr. Kenney to succeed in his hostile take over the Alberta’s PC Party.

But stopping Mr. Kenney would mean someone would actually have to run against him.

We have heard rumours of that Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer is aiming to run, with the support from the party’s monied Calgary establishment. He is the former CEO of the Manitoba PC Party and was connected to Jim Prentice‘s 2014 leadership campaign. Also said be considering a run is Byron Nelson, another Calgary lawyer and a past PC election candidate.

Richard Starke
Richard Starke

I am told that more than a few moderate Tories are warming up to the idea of supporting soft-spoken veterinarian Richard Starke, one of two remaining rural PC MLAs. Sandra Jansen has also been talked about as a voice of the party’s ‘progressive’ wing. She is despised by federal Conservative activists for throwing her support behind two Calgary Liberal Party candidates in the last federal election.

Will there be a candidate from Edmonton? The NDP remain popular and ahead in the polls in the capital city, which elected New Democrats in every constituency in the 2015 election.

Thomas Lukaszuk
Thomas Lukaszuk

Former Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Thomas Lukaszuk has been rumoured but his support of funding cuts to the University of Alberta, his close association with former premier Alison Redford and his strange $20,000 cell phone bill are significant political impediments. According to a recent ThinkHQ poll, his disapproval rating in Edmonton sits around 50 percent.

City Councillor Michael Oshry has mused about running but his real goal might actually be to secure his spot as a PC candidate in Edmonton-McClung in the next election, a seat that the PCs might be able to pick up. Lawyer Harman Kandola, who was the PC candidate in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2015 is also said to be testing the waters for a run.

Katherine O'Neill
Katherine O’Neill

I have heard some PC Party members wish party president Katherine O’Neill would join the leadership race. The former Globe & Mail reporter and past PC candidate has been criss-crossing the province at the same speed as Mr. Kenney and his big blue truck, though it is probably too late for the party president to shift gears into a leadership vote this close to the official start of the campaign.

Mr. Kenney has spent the summer travelling around the province preaching his gospel of merging the PCs and Wildrose Party to defeat the risky, dangerous and scary socialists in Edmonton. But it might not necessarily a bad thing that Mr. Kenney has sucked up all the PC leadership oxygen this summer. In doing so he has defined the narrative of this part of the campaign – merging the PCs with the Wildrose – an idea that 1,000 PC Party members, including many who will now vote as Superdelegates, loudly rejected at their annual general meeting earlier this spring.

8 replies on “PC Party Superdelegates could block Jason Kenney’s hostile takeover”

It should be noted that the constituency board spots aren’t “superdelegates,” exactly. The people filling these spots still need to be elected by party members in the riding. What the rules actually mean is that the five CA board members who receive the most votes are guaranteed spots, no matter where they are in the overall voting results. As a basic example, if there are 16+ candidates for delegate positions in a riding, and 6+ of these candidates are members of the local board, only the top 5 board members by number of votes get guaranteed spots.

This may seem like a difference of semantics, but it’s important to note because in some CA’s, every active and involved party member is invited onto the local board, meaning that the local boards in some ridings have dozens of members. Therefore, a fierce and democratic race will still exist for the board-reserved positions, at least in some ridings.

Interesting. Agree there’s a distinction to making these guaranteed ex-officio spots.

But what happens if, say, there are 8 board members running for delegate spots, and they ALL support Candidate X.

And Kenney wins 95% of the votes in the riding, which would presumably give him 14 of the 15 delegate spots.

In that case, would Kenney get 10 at large delegates, and the 5 board members with the most delegate votes all get spots?

Presumably, yes. But this does rest on the assumption that all of the local board members would be anti-Kenney, which isn’t close to being guaranteed in most areas of the province.

Actually Dave that’s wrong. The motion at the pcaa’s convention wasn’t against unity but rather stated to rebuild the party. Nothing against unity.

That and three quarters of the delegates had already left for lunch when it had passed.

The superdelegates are the members of the PCAA Board (39 of those) and the former MLAs (who knows how many are still kicking?), who are all automatic delegates. One shouldn’t assume that these “superdelegates” would be uniformly opposed to a merger – the MLAs, at least, watched the struggles of the federal PCs post-1993 and don’t want the PCAA to end up in a position where this is not a merger of equals. Right now, if one sets the issue of money aside (and the rules say one must, as money transfers between parties are forbidden), the PCAA is polling well enough to feel it has some real negotiating power should discussions between the two parties proceed.

With respect to candidates, I am mystified as to the “cachet” being attached to Doug Schweitzer. He left the 2008 provincial campaign when he left mid-campaign to go to Manitoba for the PC job and I wasn’t impressed by the work he did while he was around. Then, he only lasted about a year at PC Manitoba. I’ve heard that his title of campaign manager for the Prentice leadership was more form than substance (i.e., covering for one individual who is despised in a lot of PC circles) and he has zero public profile. I suspect this is more the folks at Dentons and a few others in Calgary who feel like they should own a Premier. But, if someone wants to enlighten me as to why I shouldn’t feel he is a bit of an empty vessel, I’m all ears.

The PC party lacks the courage of its convictions. On the one hand, they announce that all candidates must protect the party brand from harm. On the other, they seem unwilling to exclude as a candidate a longtime Wildrose supporter who has made clear that he is fatal to the party brand because he plans to eliminate the party so that its corpse can unite with the Wildrose into some new party, which inevitably would be controlled by the former Wildrosers whose membership for years has been larger than that of the PC party. And will they allow thousands of Wildrose members to join their party to support Kenney’s leadership bid, or do they not regard the actions of such members of another party as harmful to the PC brand? What is their “brand” if they can make common cause with climate change deniers and social conservatives?

If the PC’s remain true to form, I suspect they are not being particularly ideological about things right now but carefully weighing what option is most likely to return them to power the soonest.

I suspect they have some serious reservations about electing such an ideologue as their leader, but the merger option he is proposing might help them to get back in power sooner. However, there is no guarantee that the powerful people in the PC party will be in the drivers seat if this merger occurs. Also, the Wildrose party seems to also have reservations about the merger and probably sees those PC power brokers more as a liability than an asset to them, so it is uncertain a merger would occur even if the PC’s elected a pro merger leader. Even if it did, Wildrose might want to do a major housecleaning of the PC remnants.

Alvin Finkel: Since the race has not officially started yet there can be no official candidates. Since there can be no candidates there can be no one disqualified from the race. Once October 1st hits and candidates officially declare their intention to run, then and only then will the rules of the race have to be followed.

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