Peter Mackay could leave Conservative caucus over party leadership rules

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

At the Conservative Party policy convention, later this month in Calgary, a faction of Tory members will propose — for the fifth time in the past decade — to change the party leadership race rules so that it's a one-member one-vote system.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay told the National Post, that if that happens, he might consider calling it quits.

"People would leave the party," he said.

"I’d think about it. It would be a very different party with a very different future."

The current leadership rules — designed when the Alliance Party and the Progressive Conservatives merged — assign 100 'points' to each riding regardless of how many many members they actually have. MacKay — and others — feel that this system is important to a pan-Canadian party so that a riding with huge numbers in Alberta, for example, couldn't swamp other areas of the country where membership numbers are much smaller.

"[The proposals] send a distinct message to Quebec, the North and Atlantic Canada, ‘thanks for coming out but your votes don’t count as much’," he said, according to the National Post.

"Every time it comes up, the same old fault lines are exposed. Given the important issues facing the country – the economy, national security – this is insider baseball at its worst."

[ Related: Has the Conservative Party lost its way? ]

This motion — to be voted on by Conservative Party delegates — has greater significance this year because of the continuing rumblings that maybe Stephen Harper might be considering an early retirement.

Earlier this year, Steve Paikin — a journalist for TV Ontario — wrote a provocative column about just that.

On April 30, Harper will turn 54 years old --- in some respects, an ideal age to leave on top having won three consecutive elections and refashioned the country in a significant way. He's young and vigorous enough to embark on a new career.

If this scenario has occurred to me, you can bet it's occurred to others in Ottawa, who will be looking for every little clue to see whether the PM is tipping his hand."

Paikin gave endless examples of other leaders who have left the job on their terms: Chretien, McGuinty, Mulroney, Trudeau, Harris, Klein...

Since that article in March, the Tories have been dropping in the polls and embroiled in the Senate expense scandal. Others — here and here — are also starting to muse about Harper's future.

[ Related: Is Stephen Harper going to step down this summer? ]

Interestingly, the one-member one vote motion pits potential Conservative Party leadership contenders against each other. Jason Kenney and John Baird support the one-member one vote scheme wheras MacKay and Quebec MP Maxime Bernier prefer the status-quo.

'They' say policy conventions are boring — this one might not be.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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