[Update 2020-02-14: Updated with donation link for Dr. Leslyn Lewis campaign]
It’s possible, likely even, the Conservative Party has forgotten its grass-roots foundations.
Gone is the party’s inspiring and uplifting vision that any member could run for the leadership. In its place is crass and self-serving imperative – the Party will dictate who can and cannot put their name forward for the Party’s top spot.
The Party appears determined to limit our choice with a leadership contest structured to exclude all but the most well-financed and well-connected candidates.
Many conservatives, myself included, want a robust and vibrant leadership contest. It’s only by encouraging candidates from across the membership’s spectrum that we can hope to select a leader from the best and brightest among us.
The leadership contest rules, a 19-page document published by the Conservative party, lists specific deadlines and specific targets for both nomination signatures and fundraising totals.
The first deadline is February 27, 2020, at which time the candidate must:
- complete and return the party’s Leadership Contestant Questionnaire
- submit one thousand signatures of endorsement from at least thirty electoral districts in at least seven provinces/territories
- submit $25,000, the first installment of the registration fee
At this point, the leadership contestant nomination committee may, for any reason, reject an applicant. All decisions are final and not subject to appeal or judicial review. (These policies are not unique to the Conservative Party. The Green Party leadership contest uses them too.)
The next deadline is March 25, 2020. By this date the candidate must:
- submit nomination forms containing the names, signatures, residential addresses, telephone numbers and electoral districts of at least 3,000 members of the Conservative party
- Pay a $200,000 non-refundable registration fee
- pay a compliance deposit of $100,000
I totally understand the party’s rationale for this high barrier to entry. They want to ensure candidates have broad support across the country as well as the ability to fund-raise effectively.
On the other hand, these high barriers to entry all but guarantees some of the best candidates available cannot enter the race.
Raising $300,000 in two months is a challenge for all candidates, even the media-proclaimed front runners Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole. For lesser-known candidates it’s a monumental, if not impossible task that prevents them from running at all.
Compare this to the Green Party’s leadership contest.
- $50,000 non-refundable entry fee by July 31st
- Contestant application and vetting process
- By June 3, 2020, candidates must supply a minimum of 100 nomination signatures containing at least 20 “Young Greens”
- By September 1, 2020, candidates must supply an additional 150 signatures including 20 each from five of Canada’s six regions (Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairie, British Columbia and North)
But even this low barrier to entry upset many Green Party members.
Two potential candidates made comments true of the Conservatives as well.
Constantine Kritsonis, a longtime party supporter and candidate in seven elections, considered running until he saw the pricetag.
“I think it’s unfair that money gets to be the deciding factor of who gets to participate and who does not get to participate [in the leadership contest].”
Alex Tyrrell, leader of the Green Party of Quebec, went even further.
“They are saying they are putting the party for sale. It’s like they’re looking for candidates who hang out in country clubs. The leadership contest should be about getting our ideas out there and encouraging debate among Greens, about the direction that we’re going in. I think it’s unfair that money gets to be the deciding factor of who gets to participate and who does not.”
Yes, fundraising is important, but barring all but the most wealthy and well-connected from entering the leadership contest is short-sighted and harmful. Those with fresh, new ideas are forced to sit on the sidelines and watch as the party delivers only those candidates they deem viable.
That’s about as far from grass-roots politics as it gets.
How to Help Declared Candidates
In the interests of helping all candidates achieve the high barrier to entry placed in front of them by the Conservative Party, here is a list of declared candidates and their contact information.
I urge you to reach out to as many of them as you are comfortable and sign their nomination papers. This does not mean you must support them in the election. It only means you, like me, want to see as vibrant a leadership race as possible.
I’ve added a direct link to the nomination papers for those candidates who responded to my request. For the rest, please reach out to each candidate and request their nomination document.
- Richard Décarie [Facebook] [Twitter] [Nomination Form]
- Marilyn Gladu [Facebook] [Twitter] [Nomination Form]
- Jim Karahalios [Facebook] [Twitter] [Nomination Form]
- Clayton Knutzon [Facebook] [Twitter] [Nomination Form]
- Leslyn Lewis [Facebook] [Twitter] [Nomination Form] [Donate]
- Peter MacKay [Facebook] [Twitter] [Nomination Form]
- Erin O’Toole [Facebook] [Twitter] [Nomination Form]
- Rick Peterson [Facebook] [Twitter] [Nomination Form]
- Aron Seal [Facebook] [Twitter] [Nomination Form]
- Derek Sloan [Facebook] [Twitter] [Nomination Form]
- Bobby Singh [Facebook] [Twitter] [Nomination Form]