The Race Is On

Justin Trudeau and Martha Hall Findlay appear ready to roll

The Liberal Party has released the rules for its leadership race, effectively sounding the starting pistol.

The finish line will be April 14th in Ottawa, when the leader is announced. There’s still no word on exactly how that vote will be conducted, though I assume there will be a mail/online/phone option for those who don’t travel to the convention.

The first draft of the rules made reference to a “leadership showcase and debate” to be held on April 6th in Toronto. Although that line has been deleted, I hope it happens, since it would restore some of the relevance to candidate convention speeches. There’s a part of me that loves the idea of Joe Supporter tuning in to watch the speeches Saturday afternoon, and being so moved by what he hears that he switches his vote. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s not how leadership races work in practice, but at least we won’t be in the NDP’s situation where Mulcair could have dropped his pants and sung La Marseillaise during his speech, and still had enough advanced votes cast to win.

The entry fee will be $75,000 – a higher bar than I would have set, but I recognize the desire to wean the field down to the serious candidates. This isn’t baseball fantasy camp, where anyone can live out their dreams of debating Justin Trudeau; candidates who have nothing to offer are only sucking up oxygen.

As I’ve written before, I do think long-shots like Deborah Coyne and David Merner have something to offer, so I do hope they’ll be able to raise the needed funds. But this spells the end of the road for the Shane Geschieres and Jonathan Mousleys of the world.

The other rules are mostly bureaucratic and won’t change the dynamic of the race. The membership/supporter cut-off will be 41 days before the vote. There will be a 10% tithe on all money raised (Liberals can’t resist a chance to tax). The amount of debt candidates can accumulate has been mercifully limited.

There are still details to be announced – most notably, the debate schedule and voting mechanism – and the contest won’t officially start until November. But for all intents and purposes, the race is on.

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11 responses to “The Race Is On”

  1. “The membership/supporter cut-off will be 41 days before the vote.” I understand the fear of making it more open, but I think opponents of allowing as late of registrations as possible ignore the positive influence of buzz and media coverage.

    Last thing we want is during the culmination of media coverage to be turning away potentially excited people.

    • I’d personally love to see the sign-up open right up until after the “leadership showcase”. But I can see how this might not be logistically or constitutionally feasible.

  2. Kyle,

    The cut off window is determined by the constitution and can’t be changed without constitutional medicament. And putting aside all the other arguments about cutoffs, purely logistically speaking with hundreds of thousands of supporters potentially taking place you need time both to validate the voters and ensure you have the capacity (whether web or physical) to handle all of them.

  3. Kyle,

    If you used the electors list (heck, even if you DIDN’T) and voted in person, you could register up until the last minute.

    The cutoff window is phrased in the constitution as being a guarantee, as in, if you register 41 days before the leadership vote, you are guaranteed the right to participate. There is nothing in the constitution that would not allow the National Board to expand the franchise.

  4. Yes, the 41 day cut off made me sigh a little bit. With the infrastructure that the LPC should be able to muster to run the leadership election a 41 day cut-off seems a bit much. I would have loved to see a big ramp up to election day as people become engaged an interested in our race.

  5. I’m not a Canadian, so forgive my influence, but why y does it take almost two years to choose a leader of a party in a parliamentary system. Is this due to the American influence?

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